Trasa W-Z Archive
Warszawa, Warsaw, Poland
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Name of collection
- Trasa W-Z Archive
Provenance and cultural activities
At the beginning of the 1980s Polish rock and alternative music thrived. In 1980 the legendary Festival of Rock Musicians was established in its most famous form. It attracted youth subcultures from the whole country. Jarocin was one of a few places in the Polish People’s Republic where one could listen to punk, metal, reggae, blues or new wave music (otherwise distributed in a third circle). Todays it is mostly associated with punk as the highest popularity of this music genre in the mid-1980s coincided with the best festival years. Bands which are today the legends of a Polish scene (like Dezerter, Siekiera, Brygada Kryzys, Izrael, Maanam, Republika), started their careers and gained first fans there. However, numerous bands which debuted in Jarocin are forgotten today.
Robert Jarosz, creator and operator of the Trasa W-Z Archive, in his young years was a fan of punk and new wave music. He studied theatre science on the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. In 1991 he left Poland, lived in Stockholm and Hamburg. After coming back in the late 1990s, he noticed that music stores did not have any records of the punk groups he had used to listen – he only had his unprofessionally recorded cassettes.
“It turned out that such records have never come out – says Jarosz – It was a time when people were getting rid of cassettes, spools, papers. I somehow became conscious that it is important to protect these things from being destroyed.”
This is how Jarosz started the W-Z Archive which is devoted to popular and alternative culture of socialist Poland, especially in period 1979-1989. It is an archival collection, mostly composed of 900 hours of music recordings, but also a science and dissemination project, aiming at presenting the history of Polish rock in contemporary context and analysing the relations of Polish rock and popular culture.
Around 2001 Robert Jarosz was contacted by Walter Chełstowski – creator and organiser of the festival in Jarocin in the 1980s. Chełtowski’s brother has just found in his house several boxes of cassettes with recordings of Jarocin’s bands. As it turned out, they were mostly demo tapes submitted to the organizers as a form of application, as well as good quality concert recordings. Robert Jarosz: „there were some absolutely amazing things there, preceding their time”, behind well-known bands “an ocean which is unknown to everybody”. He accepted this gift from Chełstowski as a “gesture of transferring the holy Olympic flame to another hands”.
Next few years, Jarosz’s collection was broadened e.g. by the archive of a closed student radio station in Poznan, private archives of the bands’ members, but also small collections of music journalists and photographs.
Where does the archive’s name come from? Trasa W-Z (East-West Route) is a very important thoroughfare in Warsaw, the first big communication investment during post-war restoration of the capital. “I am from here, I like my city – says Jarosz – I lived on the two ends of the W-Z Route. At the same time, Poland used to be a place belonging neither to the East nor to the West.”
Jarosz calls his punk recordings a “cultural heritage, as important as Kilar’s music (…) or Penderecki’s”. “I realized I have a Holy Grail in my hands” – he says. “It is a letter to the future. An attempt to show and explain to the youth (…) how was it possible to act in a totalitarian country (…) That one can organize reality however she or he pleases to, even in the most difficult situations.” As one more objective he names the fact that so far the researchers have focused on the subcultural side of the festival and its political context. “I am annoyed with perceiving the Jarocin festival only in the context of society, secret services and all that circus – he says in his interview for Gazeta Wyborcza – […] What about music? Without it this whole fuzz would not happen”.
For youth the Jarocin festival was an oasis of freedom from an oppressive state, their guardians’ supervision, conservative social norms and cultural impasse in socialist Poland. It was also accused of playing a role of a “safety valve” – enabling young people to revolt in a different way than joining the anti-communist political opposition. The texts of performed song were a subject of censorships for some time (however it was not always obeyed during live performances), and in the archives of secret services there are many materials documenting a severe invigilation of the event. However Jarosz, as well as Warsaw punk musicians which he talked to in his book Generation (Generacja) – do not agree with the theory of a “safety valve”. According to him, this idea came from the fact that “people could not imagine that one could just go to a stage and sing [anti-government texts].” However, as Jarosz points out: „There was no pro-state punk”, most of the musicians had “clearly anti-communist views” which was visible in the song lyrics. In turn, the party’s and generals’ relation to youth subcultures Jarosz defines (based on an interview with a formed state decision maker) as “moral disgust” coming from the “conservatism of petty bourgeoisie “.
Among the activities of the Trasa W-Z Route its programme mentions “collecting, digitalising, renovating, reconstructing the music, written, photographic and film notations”, as well as “public presentation (readings, anti-DJ sets, film projections, exhibitions) and building-up a historical comment to gathered materials”.
The Archive also reaches a wider public with forgotten recordings of Polish punk through publishing records. Thanks to an initial cooperation with record company BMG, and later cooperation with a small music publisher W Moich Oczach from Katowice, Robert Jarosz managed to release lost recordings of the Jarocin’s legend – Siekiera band, as well as some less-known groups: Marlin Monroe, Mikrofony kaniony, Dziewczyny i karabiny, Wielkanoc, 1984, Made In Poland, Dzieci Kapitana Klossa, Beksalala. All those records were released with great attention to the quality of cover graphics and thematic description in booklets – which also included photos, lyrics and commentaries. Jarosz proudly states that four band reactivated their cooperation thanks to the records’ reedition.
“The fullest realization” or “emanation” of the Trasa W-Z Archive is the Polish Rock Granary in Jarocin – a museum devoted to the festival’s and Polish rock’s history, founded in a historical building which used to be a granary. Jarosz is a co-creator of the multi-media concept of the permeant exhibition and most of the presented items come from the Archive. Museum organises educational workshops, regular mural painting in the city; specially for its purpose a collections of documentaries was also created. Its target is the school youth and the guests of the festival, organized in a new formula (since 2005).
The Archive’s items were also showed on exhibitions, like „Neue Polnische Welle” [„New Polish Wave”] during an artistic Berlin Biennale in 2008 or “No one will take our youth” [„Nikt nam nie weźmie młodości”] during the Open’er music festival in Gdynia in 2015.
The Archive is situated in Robert Jarosz’s private house, and its operations has been funded by working in different places. Currently, Robert Jarosz works as a head of the Artists’ Archives at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.
Wasążnik Michał, Jarosz Robert, Generacja [Generation], Korporacja Ha!art, Kraków 2010. [in Polish and English]
Jarosz Robert, Archiwum TRASA W-Z [Trasa W-Z Archive], unpublished manifesto.
Jarosz Robert, Długokęcki Mariusz in conversation with Krzysztof, Odkurzanie nieznanych nagrań z Jarocina [Dusting unknown recordings from Jarocin], Gazeta Wyborcza 1212.2007, http://wyborcza.pl/1,75410,4758059.html
Sankowski Robert, Trzy dekady Jarocina [Three decades of Jarocin], Duży Format magazine section of Gazeta Wyborcza 17.07.2010, http://wyborcza.pl/duzyformat/1,127290,8130234,Trzy_dekady_Jarocina.html
Polish Rock Granary Museum website
Description of content
The Archive consists of 900 hours of sound recordings, mostly reel tapes and cassettes tapes with notations done directly on the consoles and mixers, during rehearsals and concerts. There are mainly materials never published before. Moreover, the collection includes “50 film productions”, “fanzines, leaflets, posters, photographs, manuscripts and typescripts of lyrics, projects of the covers, press clippings, recordings and transcripts of interviews with artists and organisers of the music life, films, clips, concerts’ recordings” (after the programme manifesto of the Trasa W-Z Archive).
Represented music genres are: „dance music, jazz, lounge, rock and roll, big beat, progressive rock, pop (…) blues, punk, new wave, reggae, new romantic, electro and experimental music”.
- artifacts: 1000-
- cartoons & caricatures: 10-99
- clothing: 0-9
- equipment (typewriters, duplicating devices, audio-video equipments, etc.): 0-9
- film: 10-99
- graphics: 10-99
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 1000-
- legal and/or financial documentation: 0-9
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
- memorabilia (posters, flyers, stamps, etc.): 100-499
- music recordings: 1000-
- other artworks (that cannot be classified by other filter categories such as paintings, sculptures, graphics, etc.): 10-99
- photos: 1000-
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 1000-
- video recordings (including oral history recordings): 10-99
- voice recordings (including oral history recordings): 1000-
Date of founding
Place of founding
Warszawa, Warsaw, Poland
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Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Wasążnik Michał, Jarosz Robert, Generacja [Generation], Korporacja Ha!art, Kraków 2010.
[in Polish and English]
Author(s) of this page
- Szenajch, Piotr
Wasążnik Michał, Jarosz Robert, Generacja, Korporacja Ha!art, Krakow 2010.
Jarosz Robert, Archiwum TRASA W-Z, unpublished „ideological text”.
Jarosz Robert, Długokęcki Mariusz, Odkurzanie nieznanych nagrań z Jarocina in interview with Kowalewicz Krzysztof, Gazeta Wyborcza 1212.2007, http://wyborcza.pl/1,75410,4758059.html
Sankowski Robert, Trzy dekady Jarocina, Duży Format, addition to Gazeta Wyborcza, 17.07.2010, http://wyborcza.pl/duzyformat/1,127290,8130234,Trzy_dekady_Jarocina.html
Polish Rock Granary Museum in Jarocin, „About us” section, http://spichlerzpolskiegorocka.pl/o-nas/
Jarosz, Robert , interview by Szenajch, Piotr, June 07, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection