If siren mythology scatters the earth like dandelion seed, settling in different forms each time it lands, it is perhaps because it tells us the three stories we long to hear: enchantment, danger, and sacrifice. The deities of ancient Slavic folklore are no different, though their sense of loss is heavily pronounced. The alkonost flies around projecting a sound that is both exquisite and hypnotising, immobilising all who hear her until they can focus on nothing else. The gamayun sings to herself, undecipherable and permanently alone in knowing the secret fate of the world. The rusalka is a water spirit who sings a song to lure men to her in the forest; in a story that would essentially become repackaged as The Little Mermaid, she then sells her voice to a witch after falling in love with a human, her language the price of popular acceptance.
Upon exploring modern Katowice, I am pleased to report that there are very, very few demonic bird-maidens at large, though reflections on the value and utility of language remain. For Panieneczki, who I meet prior to their set at 2018’s OFF Festival, the past and present are united by language and music. “Our music combines Polish traditional folk songs with electronic music, something that begins in the past but is also very modern,” Anita Sobiechowska tells me backstage. “All the lyrics are from traditional Polish songs, and we’ve mixed it up with something new.”
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