Music with no limits

Music with no limits

We want to play music that will be recognisable but at the same music that would resist any rigid classifications. For us it will always be like spinning a story. It’s great we can share it with others – say Marek Jakubowicz and Michał Ruksza, musicians from „Unobtainum” duo.

Where is the beginning and the end of jazz? Your music is often classified as jazz, whereas one does have the impression it is a simplification.

Michał Ruksza: I do not perceive myself as entirely a jazz musician. Though I agree I’m inspired with jazz. When I’m composing music I try to reach all sorts of its variety, I am far from limiting myself to any particular one. One thing you can say about jazz – it also dislikes any limitations. I once read jazz starts and ends where swing starts and ends. They both cherish improvisation and one originates from the other. I do not completely agree with that, but surely jazz does not operate on simple schemes, it leaves free margin for interpretation, it contains a mystery…

Marek Jakubowicz: When somebody asks about our music, we typically say we play jazz, modern jazz, ethnic jazz…we should remember that jazz has been developing all these years and has been absorbing a lot of influences. In fact it is hard to define its borderlines. For us music is a story, where motifs of different kinds and traditions intertwine.

Sometimes even those that apparently seem to be very distant from one another…

MR: I’m, for instance, fascinated with Scandinavian jazz, with its seriousness, sadness, vastness, its play of harmony and disharmony. It is the source of many of my ideas.
MJ: In my case, whichever direction I would follow, there is always some Persian music with me or speaking more generally some music from the East, some oriental music. It started from the pieces by the Iranian composer Hossein Alizadeh. This music got me interested so much that at some point I started to tune my guitar to sound more like a traditional Persian setar. I recorded several pieces and released them in the Internet. Soon Arsam Babaei contacted me.

And this is how our fascinating project „Zendegi Zibast” started.

MJ: Exactly. Apart from Michał, Arsam and myself, Anna Chong Kee Xin, a Chinese singer and Anna Sandowicz, an actress from the Polski Theatre in Poznan joined the project. The instrumental parts and vocal parts of respective pieces were recorded in home recording studios in Malesia, where Ania Chong lives and also in Iran and in Poland. We exchanged the recordings via the Internet and we jointly discussed and agreed on a number of details. This is how the material for a record was compiled.

Finally you, however, managed to meet together and record in a professional recording studio.

MJ: Yes, we did. It was a great experience. We had known one another well, we had been inspired by one another, we had been on the same wavelength, but never before had we had a chance to meet face to face. It was a little bit like new discoveries. The project was completed, the record was released and so were the pieces that I and Michał still go back to during our concerts. It soon turned out that to recreate the feel of the record, you do not need 14 musicians at all. You can do it with two. This Zendegi Zibast spirit is constantly present in our music, but we continue to move forward…
MR: These eight days we spent together in the studio were very intensive, we also used them to record the pieces for our (my and Marek’s) next record. It’s called „Unobtainum”. Work on it was extremely exhausting because we ended up working in the evenings and even at nights. But in such moments in life you simply ignore your tiredness. Especially that we had perfect company and we were in a perfect place. The studio is called RecPublica and is located in an old mill. It is situated in Lubrza, in Lubuskie Region, thus, it is far from any large and busy metropolises. You can quieten down there, put your thoughts together and open your mind to different and interesting ideas.

How much is „Unobtainum” different from „Zendegi Zibast”?

MR: Definitely the record will sound different, though I would not say that it is a big difference. We want our music to accommodate variety but also to be recognisable. We want it to have its unique nature. „Unobtainum” is a guitar and piano record. There are fewer instruments here than in „Zendegi Zibast” but we invited Anna Chong and Arsam Babaei to take part in some of the pieces. Therefore, here you can try to spot the similarities.
MJ: The new record is at the stage of mixing and post-production. However, before it is released, our listeners will be able to enjoy something else. We will soon release a short EP from the live concert we played in Radio Malbork. It contained only four pieces but it was warmly received by the audience. Upon the request of the listeners it was played three times. With Patryk Wiatr, the radio programme presenter, we came to the conclusion that it should be given new life …

And where can we buy these records?

MJ: Only and exclusively on our website www.unobtainum.com. You can order the records via the website but we can also go to it and listen to music free of charge. We do not come up with commercial projects. Our basic aim is to get to the people, invite them to our concerts, be with them there and share our music with them.
MR: We want our concerts to be different than others. We have agreed that each concert shall be different, exceptional. Quite often, for the needs of a particular performance, we compose new music, we improvise a lot playing the old pieces, we make new arrangements… We have had concerts in some really unusual places, for example in „Piwnica pod Baranami” club in Cracow, „Szafa” club in Łódź or on theatre stage in Poznan and Gdynia.

Bearing in mind your working routine, you cannot give too many concerts, can you?

MJ: That’s true. We usually give 10, maximum 20 concerts a year. Our professional work would not allow us to give more. But anyway we would not want to change it. Such working style suits us well…

Are you satisfied with the stage you at present are?

MR: As it often happens, it was a pure coincidence that we started to play together. Several years ago we both participated in the project consisting in recording jazz carols. It soon turned out that we had similar feel for the music, similar aspirations and simply that we are following a similar path. And so from word to word – we started giving concerts together and we started recording together.
MJ: Nowadays, after our concerts, people frequently come to us. They are surprised, moved, they want to talk to us. They tell us they expected to come to a jazz concert but what they got was much more. Then, they search for us in the Internet and sometimes come to the places where we give concerts to be with us again. They are a source of great satisfaction to us. I think this is exactly what is the most important in our work.

Thus, where will we be able to see you and listen to you in the nearest future?

MJ: Surely there will be concerts on-line. We are also planning a short and more traditional concert tour. The information about it will soon be published on our website.
MR: And we are also starting to think of a new record. We are at the stage of collecting ideas. Soon we will be closed in the studio and working really hard. This time we are planning to enrich our music with a pinch of electronics. We keep on experimenting and searching. It will certainly be interesting.

Interview by Łukasz Stanisławski