Disco POLO!

14 May 2024

No, it’s not an equestrian sport involving bell-bottomed jockeys (good guess, though); Disco Polo is a rather peculiar and uniquely Polish sub-genre of Europop music.

In fact you may have already been exposed to it without even realising it. It could have been blaring from a souped-up Fiat Duze rolling by, pulsing from a radio in a Żabka convenience store or been the soundtrack to that local wedding you attended a few months back.

This cult genre first emerged in the early 90s as folk musicians and wedding bands finally were able to upgrade their antiquated audio gear (accordions) and buy some shiny new keyboards with built in drum machines (and 70s disco presets). By mixing a little Italo Disco (read: Eurotrash Techno) into their Casiotone keyboard folk-anthems, a music revolution was born. Disco Polo quickly conquered every wedding hall, village disco and nightclub throughout the land. By 1995 there were Disco Polo programmes on every major radio and television station and even former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski used a Disco Polo song during his presidential campaign that year. Times were good and Disco Polo labels like Blue Star and ‘bands’ such as AkcentBayer Full, Boys and Shazza were pumping out the hits and rolling in the zloties. But alas, the good times couldn’t last forever.

Disco Polo was scoffed at from the very beginning by the likes of intellectuals, music critics and professional musicians who viewed it as hokey and primitive (which it was/is). The tide began to turn for the genre as a whole when a few scandals involving disco polo artists and local mafia bosses started to make headlines in ‘96 and ‘97. These scandals coincided with a huge drop in cassette and CD sales. By the late 90s the wedding party was officially over and the long national hangover had begun. Public opinion and the mainstream media quickly turned and openly derided and lampooned the jovial genre.

Nowadays, the Disco Polo genre is about as respected as Country & Western or Smooth Jazz. Nonetheless, Disco Polo artists continue to break album sales records and tour regularly despite being the butt of almost every musical joke. In 2015, the film everyone was [not] waiting for hit Polish cinema screens - Disco Polo (trailer above). Director Maciej Bochniak's film follows the dreams and aspirations of a group of friends living in a village, wishing to make it big on the music scene. The film depicts the friends as they achieve their goal. And all this with casiotone and electric accordionesque soundtracks to guide you through the story. This was followed in 2020 by Jan Hryniak's biographical film of Disco Polo Godfather Zenon Martyniuk (lead singer of Akcent). The film, Zenek, has a very similar storyline; a village boy with dreams of making it big. Yes, in that genre.

The truth is, while it’s been officially cool to make fun of Disco Polo for the past three decades, it’s every red-blooded Pole’s guilty pleasure and is very unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Great...


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