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 dance music. In fact you may have already been exposed to it without even realising it. It could have been blaring from a suped-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 90’s as folk musicians and wedding bands finally were able to upgrade their antiquated audio gear and buy some shiny new keyboards with built in drum machines (and 70’s disco presets). By mixing a little Italo Disco (read: Eurotrash Techno) into their Casiotone 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 Bayer Full, Boys and Shazza were pumping out the hits and rolling in the zlotties. 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 90’s 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. The truth is, while it’s been officially cool to make fun of Disco Polo for the better part of a decade, it’s every red-blooded Pole’s guilty pleasure.