masters

KUŁAKOWSKI Wacław

cymbalist, teacher, cymbal (dulcimer) maker

 

He was born in 1923 r.  in the village of Czernice, in  Rudomino county. He lived in Osowiec from 1947 onwards, but later moved to Straduny (Ełk county), where he lives now. In Czernice, together with his siblings, he helped his father run a 12-hectare farm. 

He learned how to play from myself. Nobody played in my family, only my godfather played cymbals when still a bachelor, and my grandfather used to sing at funerals. When I was eight and fascinated by cymbals, I asked my father to buy them and he refused. But then I had a second Mom, Dad's mother-in-law came to visit and asked why he [the little one] is so sad and welling up and him [father] said: he's got stuck in his head that he wants'em cymbals (…) and father went, didn't say nothin but bought'em  cymbals and paid for them fifteen zloty. And so I went and learned polka, and waltz by one hand, hard to play left. A cymbalist tuned my new cymbals for one zloty (value of a bottle of vodka). Okinczyk they called him, he didn't want to tune much cause “when a new musician comes into play, he stands in the way”. [Dahlig]

He initially played at evening gatherings, later at weddings as well. He played with  Kuncewicz and Wincenty Jurcewicz,  with Franciszek Butkiewicz, in bands with harmony, violin, drums, and also with banjo and balalajka. Come wedding time, harmony and drums were played at the Groom's and cymbales and violin at the Bride's. When Waclaw went to play at the weddings, his father would pay a friend to make up for his lost work in the field.

He was a member of the National Army (AK) during the World War II. He fought in the battle of Wilno in 1944. Later, he volunteered and entered Polish Army ranks, where he served in the 8th Infantry Regiment of the Second Polish Army. They reached Budziszyn. He was released with a rank of Corporal in March in 1947.  He was the only one, out of three brothers and two sisters, to settle in Poland. As a military settler her received 10 hectares of land, a horse and a cow. He got married to Marianna Walijewska in 1947.  They raised two sons and two daughters together. He also worked as a carpenter in the local state-owned collection farm (PGR). In 1998 he sold his farm back to the state and became a pensioner.

 

Wacław Kułakowski, fot. Iwona Szymanowska

 

 In 1947, when in the army, he even made cymbals from telephone cables and metal bed parts, a carpenter helped him. After returning from the war he used to play with Ponarad from Grodno at parties, baptism and names-day celebrations and at the end of harvesting seasons. He stopped playing when things got busy at the farm, when his children were born. He didn't play in public for over 30 years. In mid-eightees he accompanied KGW band in Straduny. It was only in 1988 when he officially performed at the Cymbalists' Reunion in  Lidzbark Warmiński.

 Wacław Kułakowski, with the help of Regional Culture Centre in Suwałki, Mirosław Nalaskowski and Wanda Kochanowska, started teaching children and adolescents the art of playing cymbals. In the beginning of 1990s, he created the only school of cymbal playing in Nowa Wieś Ełcka and Straduny. The school has gained broad recognition over time and remains functioning until this day. He never learned the note system, he only played what his ear had heard. Overall, more than twenty of his students (Iwona Szymanowska, Natalia Godlewska, Paweł Grupkajtys , among others)  have been widely successful  in various festivals thanks to his teaching method based on mere listening and repetition.

He plays energetically and dramatically, signing along, applying tremolo. The sounds he plays are usually chosen by accords, which strengthens the lowest sounds and enriches its hue. There are also octave sounds, heard especially in his waltzes. When teaching he plays the melody base, without ornamentations and without merging the sounds.  As a teacher he is known for his infinite patience and positive attitude. He currently plays on cymbals built by Edward Mojsak.

 

Awards

2001 –  O. Kolberga Award

1990 – OFKIŚL in Kazimierz – I prize with Idalia Mizgier

1989 – OFKIŚL in Kazimierzu – II prize as a solo artist

 

Bibliography

2013 – Piotr Dahlig, Cymbaliści w kulturze polskiej, Instytut Muzykologii UW

2012 – strona Centrum Kultury w Stradunach (http://centrumkulturystraduny.elk.pl/cymbaly/mistrz_kulakowski.html)

 

Significant performances (he performed in Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Russia, Germany and France)

1999 –  first screening “Pan Tadeusz”, a film directed by Andrzej Wajda, Kraków

1989-90 – OFKIŚL in Kazimierz

1989 – II  Instrumentalists' Compentition Turniej in Gryfin

1988 – Cymbalists Reunion in Lidzbark Warmiński

 

Archives

Fonographic Collection IS PAN in  Warsaw, Polish Radio Archives RCKL,  Lithuanian Folk Culture Centre in Wilno

 

Author: Piotr Dahlig, editor: Remek Mazur-Hanaj