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Kayah

A prolific cross-cultural looter, Kayah has dabbled in a plethora of music styles including Slavic, gypsy, jazz, soul, pop, and dance. And the strategy has certainly worked a treat; few artists from post-Communist Eastern Europe can claim to have been as successful both at home and abroad. If that wasn't enough, she is also one of the most critically acclaimed of Polish performers, winning most of the top awards offered to the nation's musicians. The singer/songwriter began her aural assault on the music market in 1995 with the album Kamien (or Stone). Carrying jazz and soul tracks, the offering received top reviews and made a big impact on the local charts. Her vocal work on the album won her a Fryderyk Award, a coveted music prize named after Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin. Two years on, she celebrated another commercial and critical success thanks to the pop album Zebra, featuring the hits "Na Jezykach" (On Tongues) and "Supermenka" (Superman Woman). A plethora of awards followed for the raven-haired Pole, including four Fryderyk trophies. In 1999, Kayah hooked up with famed Serbo-Croatian film score composer Goran Bregovic. It proved to be a sterling move, not only for Kayah but the entire Polish music industry. What came out of the pairing was the aptly titled Kayah i Bregovic (Kayah and Bregovic), a mix of traditional Polish, Balkan, and gypsy music beefed up with modern production. Boasting such popular tunes as "Spij Kochanie Spij" (Sleep My Darling Sleep), "Prawy Do Lewego" (Right to Left), and "To Nie Ptak" (That's Not a Bird), the album was one of the biggest hits of the decade in Poland. It was also well-received overseas, even becoming a Top Ten seller in Italy, which is something you don't see too often from Polish records. "To Nie Ptak" was later included on a Western compilation album, Chill Out in Paris -- again, a very rare thing when it comes to Polish music. A year later, after releasing Kayah i Bregovic, she came out with another top album, Jaka Ja Kayah (roughly translated as That's the Kind of Kayah I Am). The work was a sucess on the charts in Poland and also landed her, amongst other honors, a nomination for the best local performer on the MTV Music Awards. The following year she released a variety of works in collaboration with other artists -- such as Italy's Cesaria Evora, Polish rock legends T. Love, and Polish rapper Liroy -- and also became an ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF). ~ David Peter Wesolowski
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