It’s the most important Polish song festival, which aims to celebrate Polish music by showing off the biggest hits of the past year.

But now Krajowy Festiwal Piosenki Polskiej w Opolu (the National Festival of Polish Song in Opole) finds itself gripped in its biggest controversy ever, leading a number of Eurovision stars — including Michal Szpak (2016), Blue Cafe (2004) and Andrzej Piaseczny (2001) — to pull out of the event.

Described by Poland’s Head of Delegation as the Polish Sanremo, the extravaganza captures the spirit of the Italian festival but without the competitive aspect. Big-time artists perform the greatest hits of today alongside some of the biggest hits fans remember from their childhood. Amid the controversy, the festival won’t be happening in June as it always has in the past. In fact, it’s not happening at all.

The disaster stems from the country’s ongoing culture wars, which reflect a divide between its very conservative government and its more progressive performers.

The brouhaha kicked off when Maryla Rodowicz, a legendary pop singer who has been described as a mix of Madonna, Shakira and Lady Gaga, invited Kayah, the Polish Cher, to perform at the festival to help celebrate Maryla’s 50 years in the business. (Kayah is pictured at right in the top photo, and Maryla is on the left).

According to Polish media, Jacek Kurski — the president of Poland’s broadcaster TVP — said “Over my dead body!”, expressly forbidding Kayah from making an appearance.

TVP is run by the Law and Justice Party (abbreviated as PiS) — the ruling political party known for its conservative stance and rightward leanings. They’re at odds with Kayah, an outspoken woman who isn’t afraid of voicing her concerns about the conservative swing taking place. When the party proposed an outright ban on abortion last year, she was a leading voice in the so-called black protests against the legislation.

That’s not fitting with TVP’s apparent values. In the past they cut off the performance of the singer Natalia Przybysz (who had publicly confessed that she once had an abortion). But rather than taking that step at Opole, TVP simply undid Kayah’s invitation.

Maryla, a singer with a huge fan base, wasn’t feeling it. She she spoke with TVP president Kurski to set the record straight.

#przedmikrofonem #cudny glos #Kaja # taki chorek to marzenie

A post shared by Maryla Rodowicz (@mary_la_la) on

The pair recorded a video, stating that everything was fine, and he suggested that Kayah’s ban was just a rumour. TVP would never interfere with the list of artists invited to celebrate Maryla’s 50th anniversary, he said.

Kayah refused to accept his words, suggesting that she may be the most high-profile victim of state censorship, but she certainly isn’t the only one. She did so in this explosive statement.

It’s the very first time I speak about this, because so far it was only about me, without me… but dearest ladies and gentlemen I won’t let anyone tell me that black is white and white is black. I won’t perform at this year’s festival in Opole. And this is my decision — in the name of solidarity with those who were banned and remained banned because there wasn’t such a storm about them. I am thanking everyone for all the public and private support. It means a lot to us as Poles.

That set off an avalanche.

Just a few hours after the meeting, Maryla took back her words and cancelled her 50-year celebration at Opole. A flurry of artists then turned their backs on the festival as well. At the same time the band Dr Misio was thrown out for an anti-clerical music video. As more and more artists voiced their concerns by withdrawing, the Polish media gave breathless updates about each and every one of them.

The list of artists withdrawing from the festival include the following. You’ll recognise several names from Eurovision and Poland’s Eurovision selections.

They are: Audiofeels, Kasia Popowska, Katarzyna Nosowska, band Pectus, Grzegorz Hyzy, Urszula, Kombi, Katarzyna Cerekwicka (Polish NF 2006 runner-up), Andrzej Piaseczny (Poland 2001), Lanberry (Polish NF 2017), Blue Cafe (Poland 2004), Kasia Kowalska (Poland 1996) and many, many more!

Even Michal Szpak — Poland’s Eurovision 2016 singer, who has won a series of competitions connected with Opole — decided to bow out.

A number of lesser-known acts — including one of my favourites Swiernalis — also stepped away.

Organisers sought to stop the bleeding. One idea was to shorten the festival and substitute the Maryla celebrations with a show from Polish pop music queen Doda (who you’ll recognise as a guest from Poland’s Eurovision 2017 national final) and a concert from Zenon Martyniuk — the “king of disco polo”.

The festival is organised by TVP but the city of Opole holds great sway as well. The president of Opole said he broke off the deal with TVP as they couldn’t provide Maryla Rodowicz, which was one of the main points in their agreement. Unable to use the city’s amphitheatre, TVP would have to delay the event or find a new location.

One idea was to move the festival from Opole to the city of Kielce. But it would be rather peculiar to stage the Opole 2017 festival in Kilece. Surprisingly, even Artur Orzech — Poland’s Eurovision commentator who was meant to host one of the concerts — resigned. Everything fell apart.

And so the 54th edition of the National Festival of Polish Song in Opole will not take place. Everything has been cancelled. The festival won’t take place for the second time in its history — the first cancellation coming in 1982 while the nation was under martial law as a result of Soviet pressure. Back then Poles had tanks on their streets and no one could leave their house between 10pm to 6am.

It’s eerie to think about, but once again there will be no music in Opole. It’s sad. But it also shows the great strength and unity Poles demonstrate during difficult times. The singers who walked out are fighting against a government keen to silence them. Their actions have cost Poland a festival — for now. But the goal of restoring freedom and fighting censorship makes the burden worth it.

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…Freedom !

vf99
Guest
vf99

They are letting the government stand in the rain of revolution 😀
Good job!

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

Yas, overthrow that dictatorship. TVfloP is shooketh. (It’s Kielce tho not Kilece… Marek sis!)

dont
Guest
dont

Why would anyone want an abortion?
I’m sure my comment will be deleted, but I want to say this. If you are a woman and you are proud of it, then you should celebrate your body anytime anywhere, not abort.
And my comment will be deleted in 3 2 1 seconds.

Napaw
Guest
Napaw

I assume you are male?

dont
Guest
dont

I’m woman, and I’ve heard that 77% of people anti abortions are male, and actually I understand them. They are not against women, they just want that baby to live, but the law tells the father that he has no right for unborn baby.

Napaw
Guest
Napaw

It’s just that I have heard many arguments against abortions, but your “celebrate your body anytime anywhere” point is by far the dumbest. No offence.

It reminded me of any f-boy comment à la “well, if I was a woman…”

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

Men shouldn’t have a word on the abortion issue. It doesn’t concern us.

Lunaya
Guest
Lunaya

What has celebrating your body have to do with abortion?

Women are allowed to do with their body what they want. The time in which women were nothing but housewives or breeding machines is long gone.

Of course, an abortion isn’t something you do just because you feel like it. There are many reasons for it and all of them are valid – especially when it comes to the mother’s or even the child’s health. Risking either life just because “you shouldn’t abort” is just foolish. In that case, I advise you to learn how to mind your own business.

dont
Guest
dont

Fine, I will not answer to this article anymore.

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

There are so many reasons why a woman would abort. Everyone is in a different situation, and not everyone shares your beliefs/religion. I’m absolutely pro-choice.

Dave
Guest
Dave

It’s a political thing. There’s a humungous property scandal in Poland and the fraudsters (linked to the Liberals) are scared they won’t get away with their loot. We’re talking billions of pounds here – and 40,000 people got evicted in Warsaw alone. One tenants’ rights activist was murdered. Feelings – to put it mildly – are running high. But the criminals have influential friends in the media and entertainment world. The Liberal mayor of Opole cancelled the festival.

Thiefo
Guest

Kasia Kowalska represented Poland in 1996 not in… 1944 though 😛

Tylos
Guest
Tylos

If Opole has the venue and the artists want a festival why not run it under another name and get a private TV network to broadcast it?
This is less of a problem with censorship and more a problem of state owned broadcasters distorting markets and affecting culture for political reasons.

escDisney Calling
Guest
escDisney Calling

ugh why is music being silenced so often recently

Napaw
Guest
Napaw

More like music is silencing politics.

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

A very sad situation.
However, it is the perfect example of how politics should not mix with music.

Napaw
Guest
Napaw

“Maryla Rodowicz, a legendary pop singer who has been compared to Madonna, Shakira and Lady Gaga, invited Kayah, the Polish Cher”

xDDD

Who would compare Maryla Rodowicz to Shakira?