Disco polo is a musical genre native to Poland, which has existed in its present form since the early 1990s. It was derived from contemporary folk tunes, heavily influenced by Polish and Russian folk songs (mostly somewhat vulgarised ones played at weddings and feasts) and italo disco.
The name itself was conceived by Sławomir Skręta from the record label Blue Star as a replacement for an older term, piosenka chodnikowa (sidewalk music) - which originated from the main means of distribution of its recordings in early 1990s - sidewalk stalls on streets and at bazaars. Disco polo could be heard mostly at festivals, weddings or during political campaigning for Polish parliament and presidential elections. Former president Aleksander Kwasniewski was one of the most notable example of a politician who used disco polo during his presidential campaign.
Traditional instrumentation came to be replaced by keyboards later in the '90s, which contributed to a slight change in style, making the songs more similar to modern dance music. The style was extensively marketed by the Polsat TV station, which produced its own disco polo hit list, in a TV show called Disco Relax, although it finally decreased in popularity in the late '90s, when foreign pop music gained popularity.
Disco polo was mostly replaced by heavy-basslined dance/hard dance music (sometimes labelled as "stupid house") and polish pop artists such like Doda, Ich Troje, Gosia Andrzejewicz. Those artists often performed in small cities and villages and their records were sold just the same way as disco polo artists - at bazaars, kiosks and streets or were added to newspapers. And just like disco-polo, their were almost totally banned from mainstream media, but their records were amongst top-selled in Poland.
Disco polo artist from late 90's to 2010's were totally "banned" from mainstream media but their popularity still remained in polish province. Some artists planned their comeback and even performed in far-east countries but they did not gain popularity in mainstream
But since 2010 there was a great comeback of this kind of music. 2012 was a best year for disco polo since the "golden" mid-90s. Many artists uploaded their video to social networks and gain a unexpected popularity. One of the groups, Weekend (not to be confused with american shoegaze band with the same name) with video for "ona Tańczy Dla Mnie ("She's dancing for me") was top-viewed video in Poland and amongst the top-viewed clips in Youtube with more than 50milions viewers. Other artists gained great popularity too, with milions of views and links in social media. Disco polo triumphally returned. Even mainstream media began to play disco polo artists. Polo TV, polish music channel focused mainly on disco polo became the most popular music channel in Poland. Now it's available on DVB-t and covers up to 95% of Poland.
In April 2013 group TIME, owner of Polo TV and one of co-owners of Radio Plus networks changed the radio station music style to disco/dance (with many disco polo artists in playlist). Radio Plus popularity skyrocketed, making it one of top-listened radio stations in Poland. However, Radio Plus was formelly a network of diocese stations, owned by Roman Catholic Church. The changes in playlist were highly criticised by clergy, due to highly sexualized and vulgarised content in some songs. Some stations did not any changes in their playlist and decided to leave the network and became independent local stations. This caused another changes in playlist - Radio Plus is now focused on oldies, and in December 2013 group TIME decided to replace one of it's most popular station - Eska Rock (focused on rock and alternative) with VOX FM (disco/dance/disco-polo). This caused massive protest amongst listeners. Eska Rock is now available only in Warsaw.
However, VOX FM uses only low-power frequencies from local transmitters and covers only large cities with nearby parts and it's coverage is way smaller than Radio Plus. Currently it is not known whether VOX FM gained greater popularity than Radio Plus or Eska Rock.
New disco polo artists are different than these from 90's. Their music is no-more or rarely folk-inspired and sounds way modern, similar to foreign dance artists. Drum machines and techniques such as sampling are often involved, replacing the traditional keyboards.
Even professional models are involved in their videoclips. But there was not many changes in lyrics, wchich are about partying, complicated relationships and often heavilly vulgarised.
Disco polo is generally perceived as being simplistic and lacking in artistic value, but it is still enjoyed by people of all ages. In larger cities, it is often looked down upon as music from the provinces.
The suffix " -polo" added to the names of several genres is used as a form of irony and underlines the lack of artistic values and simplicity. Most notable example is "hiphopolo" - a term created to describe some polish hip-hop artists who went too much into mainstream and made their music sound more similar to teen pop artists than hip-hop.
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