masters

BOBOWSKI Aleksander

1918–2007
musician, violinist

He was born on the 23rd of October in 1918 in the village Dybki near Ostrów Mazowiecki, Grabniak hamlet, in Puszcza Biała. Since early childhood he was extremely eager to play. (…) I was so hooked on playing, that whenever I would find out about an upcoming party in the village I would get all excited. He began his musical education between the age of 8 to 10 learning to play alongside his uncle Józef Grudziński from Dybki, who was a violinist. At first Aleksander accompanied him on the double bass. He had learned to play melodies from his mother’s (nee Grudziński) singing, who was a singer at weddings.

As a young boy, he played his first wedding during the carnival in 1929,as well as a few other dance parties at the time, along with the accordionist Dąbrowski from Poręba (halftone accordion) and from those events he earned 160zl in total (the price of a cow). From that moment, he played continuously until 1972 apart from the time he spent in German prisons (in Ostrów Mazowiecki, Pawiak, Majdanek, Bergen-Belsen, Dorah) and concentration camps between 1943-1945. For “stealing” a turnip he got shot by one of the camp guards, which may well have been what saved him his life. He spent the rest of the time there in a hospital, until the allied forces freed the camp, by the time which most of his fellow comrades had died of starvation. He returned home after several months of travelling with a violin, that was granted to him by a friend and which had been left behind by the Germans.

Between 1930-43, 1945-49 and 1958-72, he was one of the most appreciated violinists in Puszcza Biała, especially in the region of Długosiady and Wyszków, and between 1949-58 he mostly played in the vicinity of Pasłęka (Elbląskie), where he later on moved to. He taught four of his younger brothers to play on various instruments – Stanisław on the violin, Bolesław and Czesław (who finished music school and became a teacher) on the three row folk accordion and Władysław on the drum. He played at over a thousand wedding ceremonies and parties on the violin, he also played on the clarinet for some time and during the war on the advent pipes. He played with a few different musical bands, always on the accordion(at the beginning the ‘halftone’, later the ‘pedal’, and with time the ‘stretch’ one) and a one sided drum (after the war this ensemble was called ‘dżaz’). His most valuable band was the one with whom he played since the mid-1930s with the accordion (played by Pruseniak from Poręba), the clarinet (played by Cichowiak from Wiśniewo) and the drums and vocal (by Rogalak from Białebłoto). He was most known for his postwar bands, one that he had together with his brothers called kapela Bobowiaków and another one with the Kruciński brothers from Kalinowo, with whom he had also played his last wedding ever in 1972.

In the later years to come, he moved to Płochocin near Warsaw and worked as a gatekeeper in a hospital until retirement.

He enjoyed playing on a hard, solid violin with very tight strings, which in his opinion had a very unique, rough timbre. Ever since the war was over, he played on the violin that he obtained left by the Germans, until finally the fingerboard was completely worn out. He played a bright sound, sharply [rhythmically, for the leg],with a short fiddlestick, at a quick pace and often, lightly nudging the other strings. He would shorten melodies in a virtuosic way. In his repertoire, he collected between 150-200 compositions, mostly obereks, polkas, as well as marches, mazury, kujawiaks, kozakss, tangos, waltzes, foxtrots and slowfoxes. He did not use notes. The last melody, he had learned later in his life just for pleasure, was a hit song called „Bo do tanga trzeba dwojga”.

 

Braci Bobowskich Kapela, near Pasłęk, first half of the 1950s. Photo from the Trójwiejskiejska Scene archives

 


Bibliography:

2003 – Tatiana Piecuch: Aleksander Bobowski – skrzypek z Puszczy Białej. Praca magisterska IM KUL,  promotor: prof. dr hab. A. Czekanowska

2001 – Aleksander Bobowski: Zainteresowanie moje muzyką, „Wędrowiec" nr 1

2000 – Stefan Puchalski: Fiddle music of Poland – transcriptions from the repertoirs of Jan Gaca and Aleksander Bobowski, Port Townsend, WA (USA)

1997 – Remigiusz Mazur-Hanaj: Aleksander Bobowski – skrzypek z Kurpiów Białych, „Twórczość Ludowa" nr 2

Awards:

2004 – Oskar Kolberg Award

1996–2001, Ogólnopolski Festiwal Kapel i Śpiewaków Ludowych in Kazimierz Dolny – I prize (1996, 2001), with Kapela Krucińskich from Kalinowo (II prize 1999)

 

Phonography:

2004 – Portret muzykanta: Aleksander Bobowski – skrzypek z Dybek w Puszczy Białej, In Crudo, CD07

1998 – PolishFolk Music Vol.18 - Maj-Danówka 1998, Polonia Records , (dwa utwory)

 

Archives:

Polish Radio, In Crudo, Stowarzyszenie Dom Tańca, Muzyka Odnaleziona

 

Author of the note: Remek Mazur-Hanaj

Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska

 

 

He played over tousand weddings and parties between 1929-72; Aleksander Bobowski 1996; photo Remek Mazur-Hanaj/In Crudo