Monika Lidke, singer
GIRL WITH JAZZ IN THE BACKGROUND
She was born and grew up in Poland in Lower Silesia. As a child, she sang in a choir and later, as a teenager, she studied classical guitar under the guidance of Cezary Strokosz at the Lubin Youth Culture Center. In 1992, she went to Paris to study languages, but after two years in France, she began studying singing at the Ecole Superieure du Spectacle. Paris was a place where Monika experimented with various musical formations, it was a time of intense artistic research. In 2005, Monika moved to London to become a jazz singer.
Ultimately, she found her home on the Thames. She says she is often anxious, and, compared to Paris, London is a much less stressful city for her to live in.
With her face free of makeup and a woolen cap, she walks her son to school. There is no trace of a spoiled star in it, and the layers of gratitude and warmth tightly fill her aura. She is a woman whom Marek Niedźwiecki fell in love with and who attracts the great names of the artistic world to herself like a magnet.
A multi-talented singer, composer and songwriter. Teacher, guitarist and linguist. A wife and mother, a cosmopolitan and a woman of many interests.
Monika Lidke, jazz musician from Malczyce in an interview for Fourth Son.
FS: Entering your world of sounds and unusual atmosphere, this one, intrusive one thought invariably comes to mind - where is the beginning of this talented woman's work? Where did this willingness and determination come from, and turned passion into a career and way of life?
Coming back to the question about the beginning of creativity and further determination - from the perspective of 25 years of work, I must admit that the most important things in my life remain a mystery to me. Inside, I am still a girl with big dreams and great faith in people.
Why a child from a working-class family, growing up during the communist era, in a family without musical traditions, suddenly finds in music a break from difficult everyday life - that you can understand : at home, we listen to the radio all the time. Music stimulates the imagination, gives energy or calms me down... But how life at the beginning of my journey pushed me in this or that direction - and made me feel as if I had no other choice - that I cannot explain...
"Creativity is intelligence having fun." - I really like this quote from Albert Einstein, who, incidentally, played the violin and, as his son described it: "Whenever he felt that he was at the end of the road or in a difficult situation in his work, he sought refuge in music"
In this case, if there is a God, or let's call him a Higher Power or a Mystery - I have the impression that he has a lot of fun guiding us in various ways, giving us such and no other preferences.
In my case it it probably went like this: “We will give the girl an almost obsessive desire to sing, but a very quiet, quickly tired voice. Let's add a stiff neck and a tight throat - I wonder how she can handle it ";-)
I think I owe a lot to my friends and teachers who at the beginning of my journey inspired me to make certain choices. You mentioned, for example, Cezary Strokosz, a classical guitar enthusiast. For example, thanks to him I got to like Bach ...
And because once I love something, I become addicted and have no choice: in the words of writer Sue Monk Kidd, "I practise until I become a song that sings me."
It is different with a stiff neck - thanks to that I got to like yoga. When it comes to singing - I admire singers with the powerful vocals like Janis Joplin or Aretha Franklin - but at one point I learned to appreciate softness as well - and enjoy learning and drawing strength from imperfections.
Photo: Andrew Aleksiejczuk
FS: I 'm listening to Tum Tum Song - gentle bossa nova jazz - the creative fruit of collaboration with Basia Trzetrzelewska. The song that, by Marek Niedźwiecki's choice, appeared on the Smooth Jazz Café vol. 13 compilation published by Universal, and you were nominated for the Artiste Of The Week award in Heart FM Spain. You have also collaborated with many other top names from the European jazz scene. We can mention Soweto Kinch, Andy Sheppard, Gilad Atzmon, Dorota Miśkiewicz, Arun Ghosh, Marek Napiórkowski, Elżbieta Adamiak, Jay Phelps, Anna Jurksztowicz, Denys Baptiste and Shabaka Hutchings. Please tell me what impact numerous collaborations have had on you over the past few years and how do you perceive your musical journey from this perspective?
ML: For those who like to learn, life is one great lesson, and in music, especially in jazz, if you are curious, learning never ends. Each person we meet gives us the opportunity to experience something new. That is why I like to work with various musicians - as I do not have a strict jazz education - I take every opportunity to watch or listen. And I hope it will be like that until the end of my journey.
As a songwriter - I always try to choose a band in such a way as to bring out the essence of a given idea. Sometimes you need a larger line-up, other times a guitar or a double bass is enough.
When you listen to Basia's voice on your song for the first time, you cry tears of joy...
When you stand on the stage next to Soweto Kinch, you become one of the instruments.
Dennis Rollins shows you how to talk to your audience without words, using sounds and body language.
These are priceless experiences, they provide a base to help you work in difficult moments, and there is no shortage of such in a life of a musician. But, as Winston Churchill put it: "Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm." - and we also learn this enthusiasm and love for music from our colleagues, we get infected with their energy!
Speaking of hiking - two years ago I had a foot injury, and a year later - a serious problem with my spine.
For months I couldn't go for walks - it was then that I appreciated my own health. Now I do everything to keep my balance - a lot of my musical ideas are born during walks. It is also during those first hours of the day that I have the most courage to ask someone famous about the possibility of working together - you can probably call it inspiration ;-)
Moving is healthy, and a musician's life is a constant dance in search of a balance between the euphoria of creation and a more steady energy, allowing, for example, to complete a larger project.
We can learn a lot by observing musicians we know, such exchanges are very important.
Photo: Aleksandra Budka
FS: "Monika's work is an observation of life, and in it mainly what is closest to the composer" - we can read on your author's website. "Beauty but also the darker side of human experiences. the constant cyclicality of life energy find their place next to creative mistakes (...) In Oceans of Tears Monika smiles through her tears, always hoping that what comes from the heart will be received with the heart. " Tell us more about the purposefulness of your work because one can safely conclude that this work is not only the so-called art for the sake of art, but a serious path into the depths of humanity , full of ideas and messages.
ML: " "You create a path of your own by looking within yourself and listening to your soul, cultivating your own ways of experiencing the sacred and then practising it. Practising until you make it a song that sings you."
Again, let me quote Sue Monk Kidd.
As I mentioned before, there have been many moments in my life where it seemed to me that there was no other way - and here again I bow my head to the Mystery from which we take our origin and to which we return as to the source.
We try to explain and understand where life came from, what is its meaning, we find the smallest "indivisible" particles of matter, and a moment later it turns out that they are made of even smaller elements.
The concept of infinity appears - infinitely large is an invitation to expansive thinking, but it also suggests fear of the unknown. For me, infinitely small is an invitation to look into ourselves - and a reflection that there is also infinity there. So we are working on tools that will allow us to look further, but the end of this road - or its beginning - is out of our sight. In spite of everything - we are searching – as one Polish song goes: "I need to keep searching".
Human struggle with the great unknown has always been a great source of inspiration for artists.
Ann Lamott put it beautifully: “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. (...) Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. "
I still notice the mess but I always believe the light will come back - and that's what my songs are about.
FS: Many artists, when talking about their journey through the valley of creative self-realization, mention one fact, one event, one meeting or one day that had an unforgettable impact on the quality or course of their future career. Has this magic "one" appeared on your way?
ML: I am very lucky that my creative Guardian Angel can even break down a train to lead to an important meeting.
That's what happened 14 years ago - the train broke down in Barnes, and walking past The Bull's Head jazz club, I heard amazing, exciting sounds reminiscent of the Mahavishnu Orchestra... It was Shez Raja and his collective... I felt very happy. Back then, I wasn't sure if I still wanted to sing, because I thought I hadn't achieved anything yet, and I was ALREADY 30 years old (now I'm laughing at it, but then it was a serious problem for me).
When I heard Shez's music, I thought that for such moments it was worth continuing my studies and trying further.
It was June 2006.
In 2007 I recorded my first album.
This meeting was not a coincidence - Shez is my husband, in 2011 our son, John, was born.
Our life, of course, is not a fairy tale, but we have learned to respect and support each other despite obstacles. Thanks to this support, we both develop as musicians, and at the same time we fulfil ourselves as parents and partners. I can't imagine my career without this meeting, and I think Shez has the same.
FS: In October 2020, "Let the world be a question" was released - a carefully prepared fourth album with songs in English and Polish. Bands of musicians cooperating with you regularly participated in the project, including the Polish Vadomaya Collective and Alle Choir London. Tell us about this album, starting with the selection of the musical compositions, through the lyrics, and ending with the message and individual reflections on the material included..
ML: We started working on the album in 2015, while recording the Polish album "Gdyby każdy z nas...".
We then recorded "Lazy detour", "Not a bad bone" and "Curious puzzle".
Shortly thereafter, guitarist Kristian Borring, with whom I have worked since 2006, moved to Australia, which resulted in a line-up change - British guitarist Matt Chandler, my neighbour, joined the London band.
Literally on the second day after that recording session, it turned out that my dad has stage 4 cancer.
It was an emotionally difficult time for our family. I tried to fly to Poland, to my parents as often as possible. On the occasion of the release of a new album in Polish in 2017.we were often invited to play concerts in Poland. At the Jazz i Literatura festival in Chorzów, thanks to Marzena Anioł, I met a vibraphonist, Jan Freicher, and this is how my acquaintance with the band Vadomaya began.
We started to perform and record together - the album includes the songs: "Samba, biodra i nogi", "Słuchaniem być" and "Zimowy poranek" and its English version "A winter morning".
The Forum, London
In May 2018 I gathered my renewed London line-up at Kore studio - this time with Canadian Adam Teixeira on drums.
We recorded: "Making it up as we go", "Tango", "Mother", "Snowflake's dream", "W deszczu pod parasolem".
In September 2018, my dad passed away.
It was very difficult for me after his death, now I do understand what mourning is. My social life was gone - I couldn't even answer the phone. I kept all my professional commitments, but privately retreated myself.
Meanwhile, the idea of the fourth album was maturing.
"Let the world be a question" - is the title of the album and is taken from the song "Mother", in which I encourage my mother, and thus myself and all mothers - to rest... I started writing this song watching my mother look after my sick father. I thought about my own fatigue when my son was little, and how difficult it was for me to rest then, because when he was asleep, I’d take care of our home or my music admin... I read an interview with Dorota Miśkiewicz, who tells that just like her mother, Grażyna, she always runs everywhere.
I looked at my mother, at her incessant bustle, and thought: oh yeah... I act exactly the same.
So I wrote, “All the thoughts, all the things that define you as a mother – I have seen them fly away, to a faraway destination, where they’re taken care of… Close your eyes, find your space in the middle of a breath, let yourself be the rhythm of the wave, let the world be a question, rest.”
Another song I would like to mention here is "Making it up as we go" written with guitarist Matt Chandler.
We had a rehearsal and Matt started playing his new idea, so I pressed record and started improvising this line - "We are making it up as we go, out of time, in a trance. So we have no plan, and so what? So much fun going off road! "
This lyric was a mystery for me until the end, I had the impression that it led me into a maze of difficult to express truths about man - “Understanding the nature of lies… oh but here lies the secret… Show me everything that you hide – would it make any difference? We love our cliches… Oh, but please don’t you slip away from me! “
"Breaking hearts is never why we leave, breaking even is never why we give ourselves."
Once I listened to an interview with Jan Mlynarski, the son of Wojciech Młynarski, our Polish national treasure of a song-writer. Jan accused Wojciech that he only cared about work - and that this would not change the world anyway. Wojciech replies: "Oh yes it will – I am changing the world all the time."
And this is how part of the text for the song about breaking out of toxic relationships was created, entitled "Tango":
“For every one of our anxieties
There is also a smile of fate
An even bigger pure joy instead of a blow
Pure joy instead of a blow
Yes, i reckon
I can do this, I really want it
A smile of fate
Pure joy instead of a blow
With every step
I am changing
And everything around me changes too
The world can say whatever it wants...
FS: "Let the world be a question" was released during a very difficult global pandemic period. Not only that - you raised the funds for the album yourself. It is quite a bold initiative given the developing economic crisis. What was the entire fundraising and material release process? Does the current situation in the world - compared to previous publications - leave a noticeable mark on the distribution and promotion of the album?
ML: As the album was prepared over five years - I really wanted to release it in 2020. I choose to finance my albums by myself - it gives me complete artistic freedom. In this particular case, fundraising through the Kickstarter platform enabled me to release a vinyl record - I've always dreamed of it. Thanks to our loyal fans, I managed to raise the necessary funds and I released the album myself in October last year.
The way in which music is distributed over the last few years has changed dramatically - but in the case of niche genres there is always a small group of music lovers who are looking for something more than an mp3 stream... which is very positive, so we're hopeful.
FS: The pandemic thwarted the plans of many artists around the world. You traveled a lot and toured, you collaborated with many musicians and you were very actively directing your steps into new spaces and collaborations. How do you find yourself in the new reality and have you found your own method for development?
ML: Yes, of course a lot has changed. We don't give concerts, we can't meet - we all miss that very much. Jazz musicians must play together to feel the energy and drive to keep working...
But we cope in all possible ways - technology helps.
My husband and I bought great recording equipment, we both compose a lot of new music. It's a huge luxury to be able to record vocals at home. I'm learning a lot about recording right now and am working with fantastic musicians from all over the world - I don't think it would be if it wasn't for the pandemic.
Breaks in the routine are needed - but this one is very long... Now I am waiting with great curiosity for the first rehearsals with the band, the first meetings with the audience.
I imagine it will be such a joy.
FS: You discover the poetry of Andrzej Ballo, thanks to which you find layers of feelings that you did not suspect yourself of and you sing his poetry. You are delighted with the art of Anna Król from the WcinAnki project and finally Ania designs the covers of your albums. You start learning Portuguese with the thought that you will be singing in the original bossa nova language and I am sure that these songs will be made. You have a curious, lively mind and you not only observe and absorb, but also implement and adapt the works of other artists in your art. You attract people by giving, but at the same time taking. Is this childish curiosity, passion and reverence for beauty part of a broader philosophy of life that you follow in your everyday life?
ML: I would very much like it to be the truth... and in a way, it is, but just like everyone else's life - mine is also full of routine. It bothers me a lot, I am often depressed and depleted because of it. On the one hand, I want to rebel against it, but nevertheless I like some kind of predictability and I want to give my child a sense of security at home...
Therefore, when someone's work touches me in the way Andrzej Ballo's poetry did - I start examine it closely – and if the moment is right - I give in to a kind of madness: I get obsessed and work constantly, maniacally... And it is light work, because energy comes from great admiration and love for someone's art - creating something together can be so much fun. That's why I love working with various artists, it makes me feel alive.
Ania Król's collages (@wcinanki) are so incredibly beautiful and extremely interesting that they are breathtaking - I am very happy with our covers.
And with Portuguese it is so that although I still have a heavy accent, I have already recorded the first song in this language ;-)
I like learning languages, it brings me a lot of joy, besides, it is also great for the brain - and we should all care about keeping it in a youthful condition.
ESPECIALLY FOR Fourth Son
PREMIERE COVER OF THE NEWEST SINGLE by Monika Lidke.
Project: Anna Król, @wcinanki
FS: Listening to your statements and observing social media accounts, you do not notice an experienced jazz singer who works with international bands. More like a modest, sensitive girl next door who happens to stand in the spotlight. Has your career ever significantly influenced your life in the multifaceted sense of the word?
ML: I love writing songs, I love to sing, I learned, although it was not easy, to take my music out to people. However, the spotlights have never been an end in itself for me... I am not a famous person and it is difficult for me to imagine the lives of very famous people, it must be very hard... So I don't think my work has an impact on how I live.
On the other hand, I consider creating and sharing music an extraordinary privilege - I derive great joy and energy from those to overcome the monotony of everyday life.
For example, I'm standing in a line to the checkout at the grocery store, but... there's a movie in my head:
“On Via dell Amore
we don't touch the ground
we are moving
we collect turquoise and reds
we turn the rest
into antimatter... "(text by A. Ballo)
Immediately, life gets easier for a moment.
Art, literature and music are an inexhaustible source of hope for me.
FS: You got very involved in the Women's Strike campaign, offering support and help as best you can. Few artists decide to reveal their beliefs, especially in the face of events that have a drastic impact on the fate of the country. Are you not afraid of visual labeling or rejection by your audience?
ML: I left Poland in 1992. Some differences and distortions can be clearly seen from a distance. On the one hand, religious beliefs to which everyone is entitled.
On the other hand, should I impose my beliefs on others and limit someone else's freedom, because I believe it is right?
Personally, I believe that there are situations in which the interpretation of certain points goes too far and an extreme situation arises - in which common sense is difficult to find.
Let us not judge and make decisions for others, and let us not take away their freedom to decide about their life and health.
FS: In an interview with Alex Slawinski you say that you are already collecting material for the next album! Will you reveal some details about the project?
ML: Of course - during the pandemic I wrote some new songs inspired by the current situation and a few books. This time it will be an album with string arrangements. We've already recorded half of it - the producer and cellist Wayne Urquhart (aka Wulfnote) is creating amazing arrangements for us. I met Wayne while working on the previous album and here I have to admit, once again I'm moving into a completely different dimension...
FS: Many young singers dream of establishing a career related to their passions. Taking into account years of your own experience, what advice would you give to young people at the beginning of their journey?
ML: Get to know yourself and think why you are doing something. Moving on - what aspects of the road make you collect colloids, and which of them do not inspire you at all?
Write it down in an easily accessible place - and check it often - such self-awareness will come in handy in times of crisis or when you have to make a difficult choice.
Don't wait for permission from your parents or colleagues, do your job.
If your teacher systematically kills your faith in what you love and what makes you feel alive – find another teacher. Look for mentors who will inspire you to fill your life with things you love doing.
Once you've achieved something - keep improving. Listen to criticism, but only from people who are experts in your field. Still don't expect understanding and support from your family and friends - if they offer it, that’s great, if not, let it be that way. Forgive and do your thing: you’re the only person who can do this for yourself.
Photo: Monika S. Jakubowska
"Beautiful, delicate, addictive. I can't get this music out of my head. It's just wonderfull. Sincere congratulations. Ms. Monika, I'm your fan."
- Marek Niedźwiecki on Monika Lidke's music
"Monika sings with a wonderful, crystal voice that I listen to every day, feeling that life is getting better."
- Basia Trzetrzelewska.
"Music is for me one of the wonders of this world and I thank everyone who helps me turn my musical dreams into reality. Music, like love, never stops ..."
Waking up to Beauty 2008
If I was to describe you 2014
If all of us 2017
Let the world be a question 2020