Interview: Alfah Femmes

Continuing our series of interviews, we are thrilled to present our third installment, which builds upon the success of our previous article titled “The Sound of Tri-City”. In this edition, we invite you to join us as we embark on a captivating journey through the thoughts and experiences of Alfah Femmes.

How does being based in Gdańsk influence your music and creative process? Have you collaborated with other local musicians? If so, how have these collaborations influenced your music? How would you describe the camaraderie and competition among local bands in Gdańsk ? 

Are there collaborative initiatives or events that strengthen the bonds within the music community? 

First of all, living and creating in Gdańsk allows us to collaborate with people who also live and create in Gdańsk . The city’s vibrant social scene provides numerous opportunities for frequent and intense interaction, discussion, and cooperation, influencing the shape of our music and the directions it takes. Our enthusiasm for music – both old and new – fuels conversations and mutual fantasies. Later, the close-knit community naturally extends mutual support in various aspects, including infrastructure and time resources. 

The Gdańsk scene is not vast, so it is nothing unusual to encounter familiar names when exploring other local bands. It is safe to say that we like each other here, and we often invite each other to be guests in our projects. The warmth and attention are also evident among representatives of previous generations contributing to the Tri-City music scene. The camaraderie and familiarity are real. Additionally, competition — but in a humorous, yet not mocking manner, at least that’s what we think. 

Collaborative and creative initiatives have been, and continue to be, very much present here in the form of organized open jams, free or intentional jam sessions, workshops, and individual actions held during festivals, galas, and similar events. Examples of notable initiatives are the now-discontinued “Space Fest” and the still vibrant “Solidarity of Arts”. A recent addition to the cultural landscape, the showcase festival “SeaYou“, held at the Gdansk Shakespeare Theater, plays a pivotal role in strengthening bonds within the Tricity music scene. Additionally, the unifying platform “Soundrive” stands out for its high professionalism, ingenuity, and enthusiasm, further fostering collaboration and creativity within the local music community. 

Is there a specific sound of Gdańsk ? 

In a lighthearted manner, we used to playfully characterize the Tri-City sound as “amateur with crap-sounding drums”. Let’s reiterate, this description is intended purely for humor. Drawing from our somewhat limited knowledge and a touch of playful ignorance, as well as insights gleaned from Spotify’s editorial playlists such as “Fresh Finds Polska” or perhaps “Polish Indie“(?), we infer the existence of a distinct Gdańsk sound. Interestingly, this local sound seems to have minimal representation in the streaming and showbiz realms curated by the hands of the capital. 

Conversations with individuals outside Gdańsk lead us to believe that their perceptions of Tricity’s music and scene range from extremely flattering to occasionally outright negative. Expressions such as “space in music”, “freedom from and to”, and “new things that come from the sea” (with a nod to Jakub Knera, who diligently runs a website under that name, dedicated to popularizing the unheard, unnoticed, and underestimated), are frequently encountered. While we refrain from passing a definitive judgment on the accuracy of these impressions, we won’t dispute them either. What we are certain about is our belief that there has been, and continues to be, a wealth of music from Gdańsk deserving recognition as “undeniably awesome” and possessing a truly unique sonic identity. 

What challenges do local bands in Gdańsk face, and how have you overcome them? 

It’s a long way from here to the start, and it’s the hardest thing to get started, but once you get going, well, you’re going. However, due to demographic and economic reasons, the market is significantly limited compared to European metropolises. We haven’t gotten past that yet. 

How does the Gdańsk audience respond to your music? Are there distinct characteristics of your local fan base? 

Our audience in Gdańsk is recruited from our friends and acquaintances, both within and outside the industry (highlighting distinct characteristics). As a result, it’s challenging for them to react unfavorably to our work. Additionally, we occasionally succeed in winning over individuals who attend our concerts intentionally, as well as those who happen upon them by chance. Some become long-term supporters, while others remain unconvinced. 

Are there specific venues in Gdańsk that hold a special place in your heart?  What makes them unique? 

There were many such places; some have survived, and new ones are still being created, albeit with less intensity. These were venues where we discovered Tri-City and world music, where we began playing ourselves, or where we consistently performed for years. Through our performances, we contributed to the challenging beginnings of these establishments, forming connections with people associated with the community. In many of these venues, we engaged with individuals whom we later collaborated with, worked alongside, and celebrated with. 

In your opinion, how has the overall music scene in Gdańsk evolved over the years? Are there notable trends or shifts? 

In our opinion, it can be said that, in the domestic market, the Tri-City music scene has significantly diminished in importance, primarily in favor of Warsaw, but not exclusively so. This isn’t a recent development but rather spans two decades. Nevertheless, we see nothing wrong with this, as we firmly believe that the ability to shape nationwide trends doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of music produced in Tricity (which we consider to be very high). 

Regarding trends and transformations, the majority of Tri-City bands, whether recording independently or with the support of record companies in professional studios, exhibit a rich sound, and their recordings are increasingly free from any technical shortcomings. We’ve noticed an apparent surge in the export of hipster, quite badass, semi-improvised music from the Tri-City in recent years. 

How do you hope your music will contribute to the musical legacy of Gdańsk ? 

We hope that our work will one day be discovered by enthusiastic admirers who appreciate creating conceptual maps and understanding broad contexts. In this respect, it will serve as one (tiny) building block contributing to the history and art of this beautiful, broken, fucked-up, unique city. 

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