A Polish folk group institution, Trebunie-Tutki have been releasing recordings since the early 1990s. Based around family (lead Kryzysztof Trebunia-Tutka, on violin, flutes, bagpipes, and wooden horns, and Anna Trebunia-Wryrostek, on cello, are brother and sister), Trebunie-Tutki practice the 'góral' music of the Polish highlanders. This musical tradition is found in the Tatra mountains, but the Gorals can be found further afield in Slovenia, and also in the north of Romania – one could also think of the Gorals as the Slavonic folk of the Carpathian Mountains.
Over the years, Trebunie-Tutki have not only performed traditional material, but they have also experimented with musicians from other cultures. My first encounter with Trebunie-Tutki was via their collaboration with the Twinkle Brothers from Jamaica – an incredible, near-improbable mashup of roots reggae, dub, and strings (recommended: their 1996 meeting with producer Adrian Sherwood, w/Sherwood). Evolving from a regional band to one that ventured further afield, Trebunie-Tutki's music has met artists such as Kinior Future Sound, and English musician Andrew Cronshaw, in updating Poland's mountain music. Trebunie-Tutki's latest exploration on Duch Gór: The Spirit of the Mountains is with the Quintet Urmuli, a group that has been performing for twenty-five years, and who hail from Tbilisi, Georgia.
“Duch Gór” means “good spirit,” and the Quintet Urmuli lend a welcoming atmosphere and an immense sonic variety to this work. Georgian bagpipes, a variety of flutes, and the fabulous Georgian choral tradition are woven into the fabric of the arrangements of these songs and tunes. What Trebunie-Tutki and the Quintet Urmuli have done is to try and meet each other where songs share something in common. Hence, on the opening “Rise Forefathers,” the Quintet intones a solemn call, bringing to mind both the settlers of the Tatra mountains seeking favor from nature, as well as the loss of loved ones. This theme – where magic encounters everyday life – is echoed on several tracks across the album. There are songs of love (“Hey, My Girl,” and “Going On A Plunder”); aspects of highlander life (“Redyk/Trailing Of The Sheep”); and highwaymen (“My Beloved – Shepherd's Axe,” which speaks of the amulets born by highlanders, such as shirt pins, herbs, a magical candle made from a miscarried baby's finger, and the sacred utility of the shepherd's axe itself).
The mix of the Polish and Georgian influence is sublime; yet, while Anna Trebunia-Wyrostek also sings on Duch Gór, this is an album on which the testosterone flows freely. For example, “In The Forest” has a spare, strummed loping beat, which gives way amongst shouts and whistles to virile, rapid Georgian chanting. However, what I found particularly fascinating is that despite the rapid-fire fiddling of the góral music, many of the melodies are haunting and full of stark longing. Indeed, there is a droning, ambient element to this collaboration which draws the mountain cultures closer together. Two pieces in particular stand out: “Hej Geiwoncie,” with its deep resounding flutes, captures the mystical legend of the Polish king Boleslaw Smialy, rumored to be magically sleeping in the mountains until a future awakening. Another highlight is the masterpiece “Between East and West,” a mini-epic of Polish and Georgian horns and drones, shepherd flute, delicately plucked strings, and sheep bells clinking amongst mountain pastures.
The “Duch Gór” of the mountains was said to bring the lost safely home again. Together, Trebunie-Tutki and Quintet Urmuli have carefully enriched each other's traditions on this other-worldly release. - Lee Blackstone
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