On July 13, local hip hop artist Sam Nabi took the stage with Polish folk punk band Hańba! from Kraków, Poland.  

Ben Gorodetsky, organizer of the Pinch Cabaret monthly variety shows hosted Hańba! and Nabi at Fuzion Studio, an old zumba studio turned art space.  

“This is the type of space I’m really into—just putting unexpected things together and seeing what happens. I think that’s kind of the idea behind this venue and having hip hop/Polish folk punk makes sense somehow.” Nabi said.  

It was through a grapevine of connections in the Polish music scene that Gorodetsky connected with Hańba! Gorodetsky shared his affinity for Eastern European music, or anything with some “oom-pah-pah,” tying it to his Ukrainian-Jewish background.  

With two incredible musical acts, the show brought in an enthusiastic crowd. When directed by Andrzej Zamenhof, the lead singer and banjo player of Hańba!, the audience members chimed in, shouting “OY!”, as well as singing along with Hańba!’s songs.   

The audience was singing along as the final song came to an end. The lights were turned off, and the members of Hańba! left their instruments behind, stepping off stage to join the audience singing acapella together under a disco ball.  

Originally started in 2013 as a concept band, Hańba! is made up of banjo, tuba, clarinet, saxhorn, accordion and a baraban drum, most of which are considered unusual in the music scene in Poland. However, these instruments fit the overall concept of Hańba! being a fictional band set in interwar 1930s Europe.  

“We had a feeling that punk rock music should be connected with some fighting against something, some oppression, some bad things,” Ignacy Woland, Hańba! tuba player, said. “We mixed our acoustic instruments with punk rock inspirations and with historical themes and subjects like antisemitism and assimilation and being against them.”  

This concept continued to be built into an entire myth surrounding the band and its inception. The concept is that of a 1930s band in Poland, rediscovered 80 years later.   

“It’s not us on the stage, but some characters, like in theatre,” Woland said.   

Woland shared that the band members had fun sourcing the characters from stories and people of the band members family histories. Woland took on the name Ignacy, the name of his great-grandmother’s brother who was a nationalist, completely opposite of Woland’s politcal beliefs.  

Over the past decade, Hańba! has evolved politically. In 2013, Hańba! was more a fun concept, however, Woland said the band members now feel differently. The lyrics for their songs were written by Polish poets in the 1920s and 1930s, but their relevance remains.  

“After 10 years, we realized the things we are singing about—we have a lot of songs against oppression, against social inequalities, against antisemitism and so on,” Woland said. 

“We thought we were singing about something from the past, but everyone knows what’s going on in the world right now and it’s also in Poland,” he said. 

The word “hańba” translates to disgrace or shame. It is the word often shouted at politicians when they do something with which the people do not agree.   

Hańba!’s most recent album is called Crisis, following 1939 and Nikt Nam Nie Zrobił Nic—Nobody Did Anything to Us.   

Sam Nabi is co-owner of Full Circle Foods and a Waterloo Region resident since 2008. With influences from Nelly, DMX, Run-D.M.C., Eminem and Ja Rule, Nabi knew at a young age he wanted to write and rap.   

“I really love lyricism, I really love word play and I really love the writing and the lyrics of hip hop and of music in general,” Nabi said. “It lets you address things directly.”  

Nabi said that understanding the history of hip hop as it has transcended different countries is important.  As much of hip-hop history is also Black history, Nabi said non-Black artists must respect that lineage.   

“[It’s also important to recognize] that there is a tension when you’re a non-Black artist making hip hop, you have to make sure that you really are respecting that lineage and not just jumping on a band wagon that is popular now and profiting from it,” he said.   

Nabi shared that touring is not a main goal of his, and that he is more focused on building up the local music scene, learning and working on projects that are specific to the Waterloo region.  

Nabi founded to preserve local hip hop history.   

“I’m interested in learning the history of the art forms I am into because the more that I understand the context the more I can appreciate it,” Nabi said.   

Gorodetsky moved to the region in 2020 and quickly embedded himself in the arts scene. He organized his first local outdoor variety cabaret show at the Branches Yoga Studio and realized he could have a future in the region.   

“There’s amazing talent here, there’s amazing diversity of voices and perspectives and flavours, and so we could do it. We had already been living here but then, I arrived here,” Gorodetsky said.   

“I’m nourishing, I’m feeding people a delicious meal of art, of entertainment, of something magnificent,” he said.  

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