The many voices of Anna Maria Jopek
Er Audy Zandri , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sun, 05/10/2009 12:47 PM | Music

Two things come to mind when a concert host announces a relatively unknown performer as "legendary". One, he doesn't know what he is saying. And two, like Google, he's all knowing and you're not, and to question him is blasphemous.

But when Anna Maria Jopek sang her first two traditional Polish repertoires, the fast-paced "Bandoska" and the Pat Metheny-influenced "Dwa Serduszka", it became apparent the host was most likely using the wrong adjective, that what he actually meant was "enchanting" or "captivating", which she certainly was.

Yet, it all started with an awkward night at the entry of the Gran Melia Ballroom, where both locals and mainly Polish families sat at round tables with distinct boundaries, waiting for Poland's dearest singer to begin the fifth performance of her Asian tour.

"It's a three week tour far from home. And we started in Saint Petersburg, Russia on April 25. We're heading to Singapore from here, continued by four daily gigs from May 14 to 17 in Tokyo," said the mother of two to The Jakarta Post backstage.

Once people were allowed in, they mingled, sitting around 150 arranged seats at a distance in front of the small stage at around 8:30 pm. The stage's left corner contained a drum set with minor percussions and one Polish tom, while the remaining space had only two tall barstools.

And Anna only brought her nuclear-family members of the band this time, the suave Marek Napiorkowski on guitar, the Elvis-look-alike Robert Kubiszyn on bass and Mr. Cool, Pawet Dobrowolski, on drums.

"I've got a great saxophonist, a keyboardist and a guy who only plays traditional Polish instruments and percussions who couldn't come. It's a lot of commitment to leave their home for a long time, they've got families, and I totally understand it," she said.

But make no mistake, despite being reduced to a trio, the band revealed worldly sounds through their chorus effects and delays. It was as if an arsenal of Polish traditional instrumentalists were backing them up.

The sixth repertoire was a great example. Titled "Szepty I Tzy", played after a beautiful interpretation of The Police's "Tea in the Sahara" and a free jam, drummer Dobrowolski changed from claps to conga, down with traditional rhythm patterns and rudiments with brushes, which elevated the music into thin air.

And as Anna's soothing vocals swayed from a wounded lover's whispers to shrieks of an Amazonian queen at war, both Kubiszyn and Napiorkowski marched it all out for moments only to bring it to a full stop, gradually followed by Kubiszyn's beautiful violin-like solo with pedals.

"I miss having Pat in my life," Anna said referring to Pat Metheny, a legendary guitar player who contributed to her 2002 Grammy-winning album Upojenie.

That night, she sang two of Pat's arrangements, "Imaginary Day" and "Follow Me", which she interpreted as "Tam, Gdzie Nie Siega Wzrok" and "Piosenka Dla Stasia", a lullaby for Stasia, her youngest son, performed as a duet with Kubiszyn.

"Today's tunes included more ballads than before. We're accustomed to following the mood of the audience and change set lists accordingly. I am thankfully backed up by such virtuoso musicians, that they're willing to change lists according to my whims," she laughed.

It's interesting that although she played a number of covers, including Sting's "I Burn For You" from his Bring On the Night album, she managed to make them all her own, arranging them in the richest way possible to suit to her multifaceted voice.

Before an encore entitled "Na Catej Potaci Smeg", a traditional Polish tune about snow -lyrically changed to "Salju" by the band - she ended the two hour concert not with one-two-three, but with a melody of satu-dua-tiga.

And despite her intense interaction with the audience in Indonesian, it was her music that brought everyone to a standing ovation, a just appreciation for a breathtaking performance.