How they do it in Katowice ... where the music resounds.

While we could now say that Katowice managed to discard its reputation as Silesia’s mining center, even two decades ago this picture was quite different.
How did it come to be that these days we think of Katowice in mainly cultural – and especially musical – terms?
It is worth highlighting right away that Katowice began the process of revitalizing its post-industrial urban areas for cultural purposes as one of the first cities in Poland.

History

To understand how Katowice, which had been the industrial center of the region for over a century, was admitted to UNESCO Creative Cities Network, we must backtrack quite a long way in history.
While Katowice was famous for its forging industry since the 16th century, the truly rapid development of the city began towards the end of 19th century.
Katowice’s dynamic industrial and social growth was accompanied by a cultural movement deeply rooted in Silesian traditions.

The City

Katowice’s music movement has never halted – it has ceaselessly evolved and developed throughout the years.
New representatives of modern music genres kept popping up and joining the classical male, female and mixed choirs, as well as brass orchestras. Jazz, blues and rock made themselves at home in no time while gaining their own traits characteristic to Katowice.

Despite being the cradle of Silesian culture, Katowice has never closed itself to the wide world. It was this city which “musical immigrants” such as Witold Friemann, Bolesław Szabelski and Bolesław Woytowicz spread their wings, eventually founding Karol Szymanowski’s Academy of Music – a university that throughout the decades educated thousands of musicians, some of which ended up influencing European culture. It was the first Polish university to create its own faculty of jazz and popular music, back in 1968.
It was this university which famous names such as Wojciech Kilar, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Krystian Zimmermann can trace their beginnings to.

Music

Given this history, it is not difficult to understand how important Katowice’s position on Poland’s musical map is.
About 27 musical festivals take place in the city and surrounding regions annually.
We could immediatelly list some of the largest ones: Rawa Blues, Tauron Nowa Muzyka, Metalmania, Metal Hammer Festival and Mayday – the last of which is a techno festival with origins in Germany.
But is is not all about the festivals – nearly every soloist and band that visits Poland (just to name two of the biggest names – Iron Maiden and Deep Purple) stops at Katowice at some point. Few bands tour Poland without a stop at Katowice’s Spodek Arena, with its unique atmosphere and public.

Off-Festival

Out of all these events, worth a special highlight is OFF-Festival, founded by Artur Rojek – former vocalist of Myslovitz band – and taking place annually since 2010.

As the founder himself once said, the beginning of 21st century was not a good time for music in Poland. Media were dominated by unoriginal pop music and the whole idea of festivals became less attractive as a form to gather huge crowds.
In response to this, Rojek rejected the old schemes and created a modern festival whose lineup’s sizeable portion consisted of artists from abroad.
As a result, the festival garnered a lot of publicity and interest, including international media.

Every year OFF-Festival invited world-class artists, making for an impressive lineup.
Throughout 11 years of OFF’s life, its stages hosted artists such as Wavves, Toro Y Moi, The Raveonettes, Patti Smith and PJ Harvey.

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What is worth a special mention is that the organizers have been following principles of minimizing negative environmental impact long before it became a trend (or a requirement, for that matter). The festival is powered by renewable energy, provides a lot of recycling bins and serves food in biodegradable containers.
Thanks to this, in 2013 OFF was recognized as the most nature-friendly Polish festival and won the international Green’n’Clean prize. Great music, wonderful people and clean environment – what more to ask for?

It is no wonder that OFF attracts through more than its music.
Nearly 20% of the audience consists of guests from abroad. These are not only our neighbors, Czechs, Slovaks and Germans – you can meet people from all over Europe.

OFF-Festival owes its success to not only its direct organizers, but all the people who keep shaping it every year and enable its continued development.

We should also praise the city’s government, which continuously and diligently maintains its image of UNESCO City of Music by encouraging all sorts of musical activity.
Summarizing, we can certainly say that Katowice has a lot to boast about, and we expect its festival scene to continue developing in the future.

Patrycja Tomkiewicz

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