Research project for Mbamba Mazurek, by Iza Tarasewicz

For #32bienal, Iza Tarasewicz developed a long-term research project entitled Mbamba Mazurek, which traces the influence that the rhythm and dance of the Mazurka — a dance whose origins date back to sixteenth century Poland in a rural region called Mazovia — has had across the world, and in Brazil in particular.

Mazurka is a music of serfs, a work rhythm where villagers would thresh grains with flails and chop heads of cabbage to a collective beat. With no distinction between performers and passive recipients, the music served as a kind of collective figure generated by all members of the community. Each group performed this style differently, innovating and improvising along the cadence with surprising rhythmic accents. In the nineteenth century, Frederic Chopin appropriated and formalized the folk tempo of mazurka, popularizing the music in the salons of elite European society. From France the Mazurkas spread further - reaching Germany, Scandinavia, Italy, Austria, Ireland, Russia, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal. During processes of colonialism, this sound developed in the colonies of the Dutch and French Antilles, Azores, Cuba, Curacao, Cape Verde and the Canary Islands, and even in Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, and the Philippines. Originating as a cadence of collective liberty that turned work and hard times into recreation, and appropriated by aristocracy, this music of Polish peasants returned to its folk substrate and took root among the people in these places, a colonial import whose origins were rediscovered by local communities in a desire for collective identity, independence and freedom. The music was adopted into local cultures, fusing with specific cultural influences, practices, and traditions in each location so as to become entirely new forms, yet still moving to similar steps and with similar collective ethics.

The Mazurka is a musical form that has blended with many Brazilian regional styles; traces can be found in forró and coco, for example. For Mbamba Mazurek,Tarasewicz has invited Associação Cultural Cachuera!, Filpo Ribeiro, and Gabriel Levy to collaborate and share their musical knowledge. Associação Cultural Cachuera! carries out Brazilian traditional popular culture research, education, and performance with an emphasis on afro origin communities from the Southeast region of Brazil. Their particular specialty is the Jongo, an Afro-Brazilian music and dance form from this region. Like Mazurka, the Jongo is a music developed by slaves, with an emphasis on communal performance, repetition, improvisation, circular dancing, and storytelling. The string-player Filpo Ribeiro and accordionist Gabriel Levy are well-regarded Sao Paulo-based musicians and composers who each research and perform music related to local and global popular music traditions. Using Polish and Brazilian Mazurka strains and the Afro-Brazilian tradition of Jongo as starting points, the performance will be a unique fusion that explores the circular relationships between labor, dance, rhythm, and community in global folk practices.