Folk bands rarely manage to create a truly mystical atmosphere in their songs. But there is a band, which does this perfectly and they are not as wildly recognized as they deserve to be. You likely heard them before, but don’t even realise it (read this article till the end to find out where).
Percival is a Polish band that plays what they describe as “the new wave of polish heavy folk”. They grew out of historical reconstruction groups with the intention of creating a perfect background for such events. Their name is taken after a gnome created on the pages of Andrzej Sapkowski’s the Witcher saga – this only adds to the band’s mystique.
Apart from modern instruments, they rely on using lyras, bodhráns or gusles. They heavily draw from Slavic paganism and culture, being positively proud of their roots. They also open themselves to many currents of this culture.
Percival’s members are: Mikołaj Rybacki, Katarzyna Bromirska, Joanna Lacher and Christina Bogdanova.
Gusta mi magla, or “Heavy Fog Has Fallen,” is a Serbian folk song, which describes mists falling onto Kosovo in a very poetic way. You can only see a top of a tree under which a tailor is making a bride’s dress is as many colours as there are stars on the night’s sky. It is a traditional wedding song, with a centuries-old melody. Gusta mi magla was published on Slava: Pieśni Słowian Południowych (“Slava: The Songs of Southern Slavs”) album, which gathers traditional tunes from Serbia, Bulgaria and Croatia among others.
Cherna galochka (“Black Jackdaw”) is a Russian spring song, sang by elders to ask the forces of nature for the restoration of Earth, so that the seeding period can begin. Lyrics talk about a bird, whose task it is to bring on its wings the keys, symbol of power, which will be used to open the Earth. This song is on two albums – Slavny Tur Live and Slava II: Pieśni Słowian Wschodnich (“Slava: The Songs of Eastern Slavs”), which features traditional tunes from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Poland.
Heavier folk, or Percival Schuttenbach
Percival plays also folk-pagan rock and folk-pagan metal. When they do, they use the name Percival Schuttenbach and have an additional member, Andrzej Mikityn.
Wodnik (“Vodnik”) is a song about a knight, Mścibór, who is lured by a beautiful and deadly Rusalka (a kind of female water demon) to the underwater halls of Vodnik to be killed. This song features vocals of Masha “Scream” Archipova from the Russian folk-pagan metal band Arkona. Wodnik is on Percival Schuttenbach’s album Svantevit.
Gdy rozum śpi… budzą się demony, or “When the mind sleeps… the demons wake up” mentions a parade of Slavic demons: Leshys, Plumards, Drowners… They all wait for the night to make you lose your mind. This song was featured on Reakcja Pogańska (“Pagan Reaction”) album.
Other works, or “I heard this before”
Percival collaborated with many artists during 16 years of active work. Recent projects delivered them to a wider audience and gave them a contract with Sony Music Poland.
Nie lubimy robić (“We don’t like to do anything”) by Donatan is a widely popular song in Poland and was played in most of Europe when the artist was selected to represent Poland on the last Eurovision song contest. The musician called the project where he produced Slavic-themed songs Równonoc: Słowiańska dusza (“Equinox: Slavic soul”). Donatan’s playful use of Slavic culture and imagery even provoked the BBC to run a short piece on one of his songs. Percival sings and plays parts of the songs from the first album of Równonoc. The music video has English subtitles.
Percival had a great part in creating the soundtrack for the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. A lot of their repertoire was used, as well as some new creations. This is the most likely way you heard Percival, but don’t know about it. This trailer contains fragments of Słyszę (“I hear”) and Sargon, both from Oj Dido album. This is a fitting job for Percival, as Andrzej Sapkowski, the author of the Witcher saga, was heavily influenced by Slavic mythology, putting many creatures and legends of this origin into his books. The band itself was influenced by Sapkowki’s books and produced songs and artwork about the books.
As you can see, Percival’s members are very talented people who work with a fiery passion of music and myth. They deserve recognition and appreciation.
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