Folk quartet an unexpected hit at song festival

Photo: Instagram/Tulia Official

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The folk-inspired band Tulia became an unexpected sensation during the long-running Opole Song Festival, the 55th edition of which ends this Sunday. Steeped in Polish tradition, the vocal quartet bagged three awards in total and was the highlight of this year’s new releases contest.

Formed in the city of Szczecin in north-western Poland, the band made a name for themselves by recording covers of popular hits and posting them on Youtube. One of their efforts – a folk rendition of the seminal “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode – has earned them an immense online following, while the endorsement of their efforts by popular Polish pop singer Dawid Podsiadło cemented their position as an up-and-coming band.

The next step in their career came this June, when the band was invited to participate in the new releases competition of the Opole Music Festival, which has been a fixture of Poland’s music scene since 1963. The band wooed audiences and jurors alike, performing their trademark brand of traditional folk flavoured with subtle electronics, and bagged three awards in total during this year’s festival, with many critics praising their unpretentious style and honest simplicity, which is in stark contrast to the ostentatious approach taken by most modern artists.

Appearing in their traditional folk dresses, the four young women did little to hide their tears of joy as they received the awards. “This is amazing, we’re still to get our heads around this,” said Patrycja Nowicka, one of the band’s members.

The video for their winning song has none of the usual gimmicky features associated with contemporary pop, with energetic dance moves and glamorous urban settings replaced by the idyllic landscapes of the Polish countryside, where moss-covered thatched roofs rise serene among the lush greenery. Yet the music itself is by no means a throwback to an earlier age, blending traditional singing with contemporary songwriting and production to create a critically acclaimed combination.

While some may recall that another modern take on folk motifs – a hit song “We, the Slavs” created by hip-hop producer Donatan and featuring charismatic singer Cleo on vocals – came close to taking the Eurovision contest by storm a mere four years back, Tulia relies on a completely different aesthetic, eschewing club-friendly rhythms and thinly-veiled eroticism of Donatan & Cleo’s efforts in favour of an ethereal, dreamlike atmosphere.

The band has just released its debut album, consisting of cover versions of songs by both Polish and international artists as well as their own compositions, and remains committed towards showing audiences how century-old music traditions can still be relevant today.