Man versus machine: Sambor Dudzinski
This article is from 2009.
Polish musician Sambor Dudzinski is currently gearing up for his Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut. Anna Docherty meets him and his large steel musical machine … Are we ready for this particular brand of ‘heavy metal’ music?
‘I sing, but I’m not a singer; I play piano, but I’m not a piano player; I act, but I’m not an actor,’ says Polish conceptual artist, Sambor Dudzinski. By way of alternative explanation he simply says: ‘I am timeless.’ And he’s not being deliberately contrary, merely recognising the fact that there is no way of taking what he does and folding it up into a neatly labelled little box.
By way of introduction, Dudzinski is a 35-year old conceptual musician who likes to err on the side of the theatrical. He composes original pieces of music and then performs them to audiences with a child-like energy, but mature gracefulness. He is a multi instrumentalist; composer; vocalist and performer. Oh and he has a huge metal musical machine on wheels. Now, try fitting all that into said small box.
His current show, which he will be bringing to this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, centres around this moving vehicle which he built himself and calls the ‘Time(less) Machine’ (also the name of his festival show). Made of steel, it resembles an old farming appliance that’s been tinkered with by fairytale elves: two huge skeletal wheels on either side, an oversized paper lantern hanging from an electric piano at the front and a shiny silver seat that rises up from the middle like a giant bent spoon.
‘To build something like this was a childhood dream and I feel better when I am sitting in it; it’s an unusual, improbable feeling,’ he explains. And so it is on, in, and around, this magical machine that Dudzinski performs his unique brand of musical poetry. The young musician sings his own compositions of Polish poets work, as well as original lyrics set to traditional Chopin tunes. But woven through all this, like a mix tape made by Mother Nature herself, are wind whistles, bird tweets and gentle popping sounds, all made by Dudzinski’s own vocal chords – and put to particularly good use on his beat-boxy version of Nina Simone’s ‘Summertime’.
This creative and fun approach to sound comes from the fact that, after failing to get into Jazz and Classical music academies, he decided to study Puppetry. ‘A whole world opened up from that moment,’ he explains, ‘I realised the power of sound: still objects can be given life and even something as simple as drinking water from a glass can be music.’ At which point he picks up a spoon from the table we are sitting at and begins to march it across a maroon silk tablecloth like a little soldier, making shuffling noises, before the shiny item falls down dead with a large – and fatal – ‘plop’. The man sure has talent if he can make you mourn the passing of a piece of cutlery.
You soon realise that you are in the presence of an individual who has lived an artistic and spirited existence. ‘My mother was a singer/dancer and my father was a sculptor,’ he says. ‘As a child my everyday was art and theatre and it is from here that it all started.’ Growing up in Zamosc, Poland, the family would often tour as an improvised street theatre during the summer months.
Of his formative years, he talks of having ‘two kinds of schooling’. The first type of school, ‘normal’ school as he terms it, he often found boring and unfulfilling, as he was not particularly good at academia in the traditional sense. ‘My mother and father were like my second type of school and they taught me something much deeper,’ he explains. ‘They encouraged me to make things with my hands and to believe in my own destiny.’
And so, at 15-years old, he started a soloist career, touring festivals and singing Polish poetry – making enough money to fend for himself. After his time at puppetry college he continued as an independent musician and also became an actor for an avant garde theatre in Poland. He’s certainly put in the time, but is he ready for the bright lights of the Fringe? ‘I have heard that the atmosphere there is one of the biggest and I’m really glad that I’ve got the opportunity to be a part of it,’ he says. ‘I’ve been hearing about it for so many years and I’m excited to finally experience it for myself, as a performer.’
It seems likely that he’ll slot right in. During a recent concert he took an audience member’s wooden crutch and played it like a flute; that’s surely the sign of a winning Fringe act right there. In fact, you probably get some kind of bonus prize for that kind of thing.