Warsaw

15 Essential Polish Songs You Must Know!

08 Aug 2021
From rousing patriotic mazurkas to subtle anti-communist pop music all the way to 21st-century gangsta rap po polsku, there are plenty of great tunes to choose from the history of Polish music. Whether you've just started learning Polish, plan on visiting or staying long term in Poland, dipping your toe into this ocean music is a great way to get a better understanding of the nation's history, culture and sense of humour! Chances are if you're reading this, Polish isn't your first language and you've used Google Translate at least once in your life. For this reason, we've translated a few lines for you here and there to give a reasonably non-robotic understanding of the Polish lyrics. 
Crowdsurfing wheelchair guy at 2012's Woodstock Poland (now Pol'and'Rock Festival) in Kostrzyn nad Odrą. Photo by Jakkolwiek


Brathanki - Czerwony Korale

Folk music in Poland differs from region to region, but it's in the Góral mountain region of southern Poland where you will find the unique sound of heavily-embellished man-choirs and accompanying violin. It's this black-hatted festivity that inspired the 2000 hit single Czerwony Korale (ENG: Red Beads) from the appropriately-named folk music group Brathanki (ENG: Brothers). The verses are from the perspective of a woman who is swept off her feet by a dancing mountain cassanova and is then jilted for some woman named Kryśka! The chorus, sung by the male choir, describes the red bead-necklace that she wears as she weeps for being danced about! Musically, it is rather different from your standard Polka vibes and sounds rather Balkan throughout. At your local pub or nightclub, you are bound to hear this thrown in as a novelty amongst wall-to-wall disco polo classics.
 
Czerwone korale
Czerwone niczym wino
Korale z polnej jarzębiny
I łzy dziewczyny
I wielkie łzy
Red beads
Red like wine
Beads from a field of Rowan trees
And a girl's tears
And big tears
 
 

Mela Koteluk - Melodia Ulotna

Mela Koteluk began her career as a back-up singer for German hard rockers Scorpions, before deciding to strike out on her own in the early 2000s. However, it would take until 2012 for her to get a full studio album together, Spadochron, which would debut at number 1 on the Polish charts. The song Melodia Ulotna (ENG: Flying Melody) is a driving indie-folk ballad about a person's loneliness and the pursuit of intimacy with strangers. Although Koteluk sings exclusively in Polish, her voice and the accompanying music has transcended international borders and has garnered her a fanbase worldwide.
Ulatuje myśl, melodia
Liście z drzew na ziemi śpią
Uratuję dziś melodię
Wezmę jedną z nich ze sobą spać
A thought flies, a melody
The leaves from the trees on the ground are asleep
I will save the melody today
I'll take one of them to sleep with me

 


Mieczysław Fogg - To Ostatnia Niedziela

No Polish song list would be complete without a tune from the rather eccentric-sounding Mieczysław Fogg. This inter-war Sinatra-Aznavour-esque golden boy is best remembered by this rousing tango, the Argentinian dance/music style that was hugely popular in Poland at the time - something of an anomaly! 'This is the Last Sunday' is a tale of heartache told by a man knowing that his time with his lover is coming to an end, and he yearns for one final moment together before it's all over. There's a certain amount of ambiguity in this song. Is there someone else she has left him for? Was their time together never to last? Maybe neither of them want to go? So brooding are the lyrical themes of this song, that it was known for a long time as the Suicide Tango.
 
To ostatnia niedziela
Dzisiaj się rozstaniemy,
Dzisiaj się rozejdziemy
Na wieczny czas...
This is the Last Sunday
Today, we will part
Today, we will split
For an eternity...
 
 

Marek Grechuta - Dni Których Nie Znamy

Marek Grechuta is considered to be the Polish version of Bob Dylan, though this guy could actually sing! The comparisons are mainly drawn upon from the fact that Grechuta was an incredible lyricist. In this, his best-known track, he takes an introspective look at the small and often-forgettable moments in our lives are more important and more profound than major life events. If you don't catch his lyrics, you can't deny that irresistible string-line response in the chorus!
ze wazna sa tylko te dni, ktorych jeszcze nie znamy
Waznych jest kilka tych chwil, tych na ktore czekamy
Important are the days that we do not notice
There are less-important moments that we still wait on
 

 

Bemibek - Podaruj Mi Troche Slonce

Psychedelic bossanova act Bemibek sounds like it could have been recorded at Copacobana studios in Rio Di Janeiro. The Warsaw-based group, formed in 1970, skatted their way to the heights of popularity in Poland and elsewhere behind the iron curtain. Their biggest hit, 'Give Me a Little Sunshine' was released in 1972 and was a welcome beam of optimism in the dreary life of Communist Poland. In the music video, lyrics and performance perfectly juxtapose the greyness of the Polish off-season.
 
Podaruj mi trochę słońca
Idą deszczowe dni, idzie mokry czas
A Ty tyle słońca masz...
Tyle go masz w Twoim głosie
Myślach Twych i w uśmiechu
Tyle go masz,
Że otworzyć mogłabyś sklep!
Give me a little sunshine!
Rainy days are coming, the wetness is coming
And you have so much sun...
You have that much in your voice
Your thoughts and smile
You have so much,
That you could open a shop!
 
 

Jerzy Stuhr - Śpiewać Każdy Może

The translated title Anyone Can Sing sounds like a bouncy, inclusive kindergarten song. The song is in fact an off-key, cynical polka-tango about how little musical talent it takes to impress people. Comedian Jerzy Stuhr, who is best known for the PRL-comedies Kingsajz and Seksmisja, delivered this unforgettable performance at the Sopot Song Festival in 1977, which was kind of like the Communist bloc's version of Eurovision. How very appropriate!
 
Śpiewać każdy może,
Trochę lepiej, lub trochę gorzej,
Ale nie oto chodzi,
Jak co komu wychodzi.
Czasami człowiek musi,
Inaczej się udusi!
Anyone can sing
Some better, some worse
But that is not the point:
Moreso, what it does for someone.
Sometimes a person must
Otherwise they will suffocate!
 

 

Kult - Polska

Kult knew they were writing an anthem of their own when they chose the name 'Polska'. However, this is far from Mazurek Dąbrowskiego. Written in 1987, the brass-backed rock shuffle reflects the cynical mindset of many Poles during communism. Frontman Kazik Staszewski describes the shabby appearance of Poland in the 1980s, comments on how unfriendly and antagonistic people seemed to be, as well as reflecting on the violence security services and militia at concert events. The line "Zaczepia mnie pijanych meneli wielu / Jutro spotkają się w kościele" (ENG: I get harrassed by drunken bums / Tomorrow I will see them at church) highlights the hypocrisy in values between alcoholism and being an observant catholic. It wasn't until 1992 that the song was officially released, as the regime surely would not have tolerated such good music!
 
Polska
Mieszkam w Polsce
Mieszkam w Polsce
Mieszkam tu tu tu tu
Poland
I live in Poland
I live in Poland
I live here here here here
 
 

Brodka - Varsovie

The queen of music video aesthetics, Monika Brodka has always had a very clear vision of how she wants to present herself and we highly recommend you punch this one into YouTube for a real trip! Musically, Brodka has evolved from a young-faced pop star, launching her career off the third season of Polish Pop Idol in 2004, to a (still young-faced) art-pop femme fatale, drawing on everything from darkwave to punk and 60s Mersey beat. She's also one of the few artists on this list that releases music in both Polish and English, and Varsovie is often passed over the desk by Warsaw-based locals and expats as if to say "Hey, here's a souvenir from my city!" 
 
🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢
🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢
🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢
🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢
🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢 🏢
I fell in love with the city
At first sight, it looked pretty
We used to share the same love for grey
Through the blanket of clouds
It wasn't easy
 
 

Lady Pank - Kryzysowa Narzeczona

Poland's answer to The Police was a little more subtle in their criticisms of Communist authorities in the 1980s. Society and the regime are portrayed as being in the middle of a marriage breakdown. The lady in the equation is called Kryzysowa Narzeczona (ENG: Crisis Bride) and both she and the singer know that it's not working out. Social commentary can take many forms, it seems!
 
Mogłaś moją być kryzysową narzeczoną
Razem ze mną pić to, co nam tu nawarzono
You could've been my crisis bride
Together, let us drink what we've brewed here
 

 

Maryla Rodowicz - Małgośka

In many regards, this could be the Polish version of Dolly Parton's 'Jolene', however, lyrically-speaking it has less to do with two women agonizing over one very lucky guy. In Maryla Rodowicz's classic recording, the song's namesake, Małgośka, has split with her worthless husband and is being encouraged to forget about him. Polish women are strong characters!
 
Małgośka - mówią mi
On niewart jednej łzy,
On nie jest wart jednej łzy.
Małgośka - kochaj nas
Na smutki przyjdzie czas,
Zaśpiewaj raz, zatańcz raz!
Małgośka - they tell me
He's not worth a tear
He's not worth a single tear.
Małgośka - love us
There will come a time for sorrows,
Sing once, dance once!
 

 

Akcent - Przez Twe Oczy Zielone

Every country has its own brand of popular music and, in Poland, this is appropriately named 'Disco Polo'. It was unavoidable that something from this genre would be included on our list, and it just had to be this track! Akcent are veterans of the Disco Polo scene and had a number of hits in the 90s. However, they pulled-off a U2 and managed to have a 2nd wave later in their career with this song, translated as 'Through Your Green Eyes'. Released in 2016, we can guarantee you that everyone in Poland knows this song, even your 80 year-old church-going neighbours. 
 
Przez twe oczy, te oczy zielone oszalałem
Gwiazdy chyba twym oczom oddały cały blask
A ja serce miłości spragnione ci oddałem
Tak zakochać, zakochać się można tylko raz
Through your eyes, those green eyes, I lost my mind
The stars seemed to give your eyes all their glow
And I gave you my love-thirsty heart
Falling in love like this, falling in love only once
 
 

Organek - Głupi Ja

Tomasz Organek started his career off in R&B/Rock crossover group SOFA, whose musicality greatly outweighed the less-than-satisfactory English rapping and girly choruses. Since he went solo, Organek has performed exclusively in Polish and his eponymous group has flourished with their own brand of indie rock, that occasionally dabbles in roots and jazz. As a songwriter, Organek's lyrics have resonated amongst younger Poles who can't stand the low calorie count of Disco Polo and are looking for something with a bit more substance. It's for this reason that he and his band have become one of the most popular Polish artists to emerge in the last 10 years. 
 
Głupi ja głupi ja jej chłop
Niegłupia ona nie niegłupia diabli miot niegłupia
I'm a fool, me, her foolish man
She's no fool, no, devil take her, she's no fool
 
 

Dżem - Wehikuł Czasu

Arguably the biggest riff ever written in Poland, Dżem (ENG: Jam) seem to be that one band that everyone likes. The riff was so big, in fact, that's was one of two 'local tunes' that Metallica covered during their world tour in 2018 (the other was the equally-magical 'Sen O Warszawie' by Ciesław Niemen). The song, translating as 'Time Machine', is about a man reminiscing on his early days as a young, struggling and otherwise reckless musician. 
 
Pamiętaj, że...
Jak na deszczu łza
Cały ten świat nie znaczy nic, a nic
Chwila która trwa, może być najlepszą z Twoich chwil
Remember that...
Like a tear in the rain
This whole world means nothing and nothing
The moment that lasts may be your very best
 


Taco Hemingway - Deszcz Na Betonie

Like elsewhere in the world, Trap and Hip-Hop are what the kids are listening to right now and the Poland has their own strain of artists and labels. The naming process of Taco Hemingway is still a mystery to us (We can only guess that he had a porno career at some point) but, nevertheless, Filip Tadeusz Szcześniak is apparently bilingual in English and Polish, but we applaud him for taking on his rhymes in the latter! The subject matter and production values are more user friendly than most gangster rap tryhards who are kidding themselves that they have something to say. Taco's most popular track, Deszcze Na Betonie (ENG: Rain On Concrete), paints the picture of a guy returning home to Warsaw by train from his long-distance girlfriend on the otherside of the country.
 
Dziś powietrze pachnie jak ostatnie dni wakacji
(Jak ostatnie dni)
Twoja skóra pachnie jak ostatnie dni wakacji
(Jak ostatnie dni)
Deszcz na betonie, deszcz na betonie
Your skin smells like the last days of vacation
(Like the last days)
Today, the air smells like the last days of vacation
(Like the last days)
Rain on concrete, rain on concrete
 


 

Behemoth - Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer

Were it not for Pani Brodka, this would be the only song on this list that is not sung in Polish (Sorry, what? I can't hear you over the indiscernible vocals...) but, nevertheless, this artist needs to be mentioned. Despite their incredibly limited mainstream appeal, Gdańsk's Behemoth are, in fact, Poland's biggest musical export! Enjoying a devout worldwide following, as well as a successful range of products that use Behemoth's branding, the band are despised by ultra-conservative authorities in their homeland and frontman Adam 'Nergal' Darksi has been charged a number of times under Poland's blasphemy laws. Why? Well, in case you are unfamiliar with this group and their lyrical subject matter, the band's music centres around a number of occult and satanic themes, not to mention directly attacking organised religion.  Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer ('Pray For Us, Lucifer' in Latin) is a prime example of the group's distinct extreme metal sound.
 
😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈               
😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈               
😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈               
😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈               
😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈               
For thine is the kingdom
And the power
For thine is the kingdom
And the glory
Forever
 


 

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