16 February 1939
Hrodzenskaya voblasts', Belarus
17 January 2004 (aged 64)
Czesław Niemen (real name Czesław Juliusz Wydrzycki) (16th February 1939-17th January 2004) was one of the most important and original Polish rock/electronic/experimental musicians, singing mainly in the Polish language.
Niemen was born in Wasiliszki in Grodno district. He was a singer with a wide voice scale and rich intonation, a composer and a keyboard player. He made his debut in the early 1960s, singing a Polish kind of rock and roll and soul music. His song of 1967, "Dziwny jest ten świat" (Strange Is This World) became the most important Polish protest song of that era. He was one of the first Poles to wear long hair and colourful clothes, introducing psychedelia style to communist Poland. The first three records he recorded with his band "Akwarele" (The Watercolour Paintings), later he recorded with his new bands: "Enigmatic", "Grupa Niemen"(SBB) and "Aerolit". In 1969 he changed musical style to progressive rock, recording the monumental album "Enigmatic". The most notable song from it was "Bema pamięci żałobny rapsod" (A Mournful Rhapsody in Memory of Józef Bem), based on the 19th century poem by Cyprian Kamil Norwid. The rest of Enigmatic songs were poetry as well. Niemen played Hammond organ, later mellotron and Moog synthesizer on his records.
In the early 1970s, Niemen recorded three English language albums under the CBS label and released the album 'Russische Lieder' which consists of the Russian traditional and folk songs. In 1974 he recorded Mourner's Rhapsody with Jan Hammer and Rick Laird from Mahavishnu Orchestra. In the seventies, Niemen turned to jazz-rock fusion and electronic music ("Katharsis"). Later, he also composed film soundtracks and theatre music. In the 1990s he moved to expressing himself in painting and computer graphics. In 2004 Niemen died of cancer in Warsaw.
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