Singing and characteristic songs of Central Roztocze

Songs have accompanied people throughout time. Before the era of radio and television, they were a form of entertainment, the transmission of information, and a vehicle for ritual. They were sung in church, during rituals, while working at home or in the fields, while herding animals, while playing – both by young children and adults. Thus, we can divide the sung repertoire of villagers into ritual songs (annual and family songs), state and professional songs, situational or common songs (including a specific form of ballad). Ceremonial songs, especially those pertaining to rites of passage (such as weddings) were characterized by very high singing. This was intended to ward off any evil spirits, which, according to beliefs, at such moments tried to sneak in and possess the person who was passing from one entity to another. Magical symbolism is also common in these songs – for example, a yew table or bench, which provide a “place” for deceased family members. Mourning and lament songs, on the other hand, were sung for hours by the deceased, without interruption. Often special “mourning singers” were engaged in this activity. These songs often took an intermediate form between orations and singing. Ballads were sung mainly by grandfathers going from village to village, telling both tragic or love stories (e.g. the ballad “stała sie nam nowina, pani pana zarżnyła”) and ballads of a religious nature (mainly the lives of saints). These stories were then passed on by villagers, so they can often be found in slightly different forms in different nearby areas. Situation, love, play and state songs were very common, invented on the fly and sung as a form of entertainment and to show off vocal and lyric skills. As an example of such lyrics can be:

“Host with black beard, and give us flasks of vodka.
we’ll eat, we’ll drink, we’ll happy, yay!”

Lyrics of songs belong to the so-called linguistic clichés2. This means that they are repeated and reproduced from memory with certain modifications, resulting, among other things, in their language, which differs from the colloquial dialect of the area (the so-called interdialect). These are poetic forms, where form and aesthetic function often dominate over the communicative task. but, of course, of a melodic nature (with rhyme and rhythmic requirements imposed by the melodic line). In singing, the two codes – linguistic and musical – exist together, but they can also be separated. The text itself can become folk poetry, while the melody can be hummed or played on an instrument.

Typical of our region is one-voice singing, so-called white singing. Otherwise known as open singing, it involves singing on a relaxed throat, the so-called call. It is quite loud and yet unobtrusive, so it makes it possible to sing for many hours. Patching is another characteristic feature of Roztoch singing. This is a peculiar musical ornamentation involving octave singing of the main sound, often using quarter tones, extremely difficult and often even impossible to notate. Both white chant and patching can still sometimes be heard in churches in our area.