The album of the band ComeYah that he was a singer of, sold out in a few months. The band very quickly gained respect and stole the hearts of the listeners. His debut solo album “Wracam do domu” („I’m going back home”) was also well-received. “Music coming from the heart… Music that lets us move to another world”, “Great music, it’s moved my heart”, I haven’t heard such a positive song for a long time”, “Oh, this music sets my mind at rest… and this voice”, “This song makes me so full of joy that every time I hear it, I dance. This is my dance of freedom”, “This song is very catchy. In a moment my neighbours will come, cause I make them listen to one song all day long” – these are just some of the many enthusiastic comments that can be found below the music video to the song “Powstanie” („There will appear”) that has already been watched on YouTube more than 900 000 times. Despite his success and rising popularity of his music, Damian has remained himself – a sincere, true and friendly man. Here comes my next guest in the cycle “Remote Talk” – Damian SyjonFam.
What was the first thing you wrote? Lyrics or maybe something different, for example a poem?
That was a song, „Chłopek” („Fellow”). I sang a song with the same lyrics later, with ComeYah, but at that time the title was “Cud Prawdziwy” (“A True Wonder”).
Do you remember the first piece of music you were able to play on the guitar?
I think that was some scout song, but I don’t remember what exactly it was, something saying that we are all one family :).
And what about the first concert in front of a bigger audience (not necessarily a professional concert)?
Once, I played the tenor flute accompanying Marek Dyjak. Those were my first experiences of being on stage. I had to cross my legs to hide the fact that they were shaking from fear :).
In 1996 you the band Natura invited you to join their team. How do you remember that period of your career?
I experienced making and playing reggae music with the people who were one of my favourite Polish reggae bands at that time. Playing together with them, talking to them and, in general, spendind time in such a company – all that was an invaluable experience and a great pleasure.
Do you have your favourite song from the time of playing with Natura?
Ragavardan was to be the vocalist on the album “Wielki Haj” („Big Kick”), like he was on the first album. Unfortunately, there was some misunderstanding during the recording session and he left the band. My favourite song from that album is “Modlitwa” („Prayer”). I would love to hear it sung by Ragavardan.
Do you remember the first Polish reggae song that really impressed you?
That was the time of my life when the wave bringing Daab, Izrael, Bakshish and Natura reached me. I definitely had played and sung before I took up Daab’s philosophy of singing. One of my favourite songs was “Nienazwane barwy” („Nameless colours”) by Daab.
I’ve read on your page that when you were working in London, you met a lot of people from different countries. Did you have the impression that there was a country people from wich are especially close to our hearts, to the hearts of Polish people?
I see it in a different way. I met some people who, because of the kind of personality they had, repelled others, but I also met other people of the same nationality who were like a family to me. In a long-established English company I met an Englishman who wanted to dismiss me because I was Polish – that was the only reason. A few other Englishmen from the same company threw their weight behind me. Later, we even spent Christmas together, in a family atmosphere. I had the same experience with Chinese, Lithuanian or Irish people. Basing your opinion on the preconceived behaviour patterns is very often disastrous. It also closes the access to many valuable relationships, and there are so many wonderful people in the world – in every corner of the world.
By the way, why are Jamaican people and their music so close to the hearts of Polish people?
Reggae is a kind of music made by ordinary people for ordinary people, not for the elites or connoisseurs. This music is very close to the rhythm of the heart and close to nature. Besides, in reggae, there is a lot of love and the defiance against everything that makes human life anguish. It’s the kind of music that gives you joy and shares your sorrow. This is the reason why it’s so close to our hearts, and to the hearts of people from all over the world.
Could you say a few words about the band Akapela, about the material recorderd with them and the concerts from that time? Who were the members of that band?
That was music created in the underground and it remained there. That project never fully blossomed, but what we managed to do back then was really cool. At that time, the song “Przewiń do początku” („Rewind to the beginning”) was created. Later on, after making some little changes in it, we played it with ComeYah.
Do you keep in touch with those people – from Natura or Akapela? Are they still doing anything connected with music?
As for Natura – Bhakti who played the bass in the band is now a sound engineer working with Kamil Bednarek, Prema who played the trumpet is now a bassist in a band Na Tak, Ragavardan, the first vocalist, lives in USA and you can hear his voice in the song „Kto tu zostanie” (“Who stays here”). I am also in contact with Mahavaraha. We see each other from time to time. As far as Akapela goes, I often see Łukasz Knap and, less often, I meet Maciek Duda. I grew up with Maciek and we shared the same playground. Unfortunately, I don’t know if they are doing anything connected with music at the moment.
Let’s come back to the time when you were starting to make music. Was there any strong team of Jamaican sounds lovers in Świdnik?
There were already people who drew me to this music. Before I even knew that there were artists like Bob Marley or Burning Spear, they had already been avidly listening to their music. I’m really thankful to them for sharing their CDs with me. The album “H.I.M” of Burning Spear or a concert album of The Third World – that music was a great discovery for me and a starting point for my long quest.
On your blog, you once mentioned that a long time ago you thought that the descriptions in books (in fiction) are unnecessary parts. Were there any books that you gave up reading, you didn’t manage to reach the end “thanks to” the descriptions?
I don’t even try to remember such books :).
While listening to your songs it’s easy to see that real life stories inspire you. Did it ever happen that something you read – a book ar an article in a newspaper – inspired you to write a song?While listening to your songs it’s easy to see that real life stories inspire you. Did it ever happen that something you read – a book ar an article in a newspaper – inspired you to write a song?
Polish lnaguage is very rich in words and reading books is a visit to the land of words. Every time you visit this land you can get something new out of it. However, once a story that my wife told me, a story about a squat in Warsaw she saw in the programme by Sekielski, inspired me to write the lyrics to the song “Syrena” (“Siren”).
Make your mind be like fertile soil
What helps you to „fertilize” your mind in everyday life?
I’m very sensitive to falsehood, but I remember not to close my mind to different ways of thinking. I listen, even if your opinion is different from mine because it often gives me an additional point of view at the particular situation, and then it creates a more detailed picture of the whole of it. Let’s learn from one another and from everything that surrounds us. This planet is beautiful as are its inhabitants. There are many experiences waiting for us, let’s not waste this chance by closing ourselves in our tight cages of the mind. There’s nothing to be afraid of.
Maybe that was God who sent the angel ahead of me. / The angel will help me when I can’t manage by myself
Good people often appear in your lyrics. In everyday life we sometimes describe good people as „angels”. Have you ever experienced a moment when suddenly and unexpectedly such an “angel” appeared on your way? Any situation that is humanly unexplainable?
Things that happen to you are very often your desires that come true. The less fear and concern and the more faith and certainty that Someone is watching over us – God that we trust, some Good Omnipotent Power, the better things will get. Those who I call angels are often ordinary people unaware of how much they can give to others, sometimes by ordinary gestures. The energy moves around and goes into people. It’s a Good Thought that triggers actions. The actions of one person influence another person and this way the energy travels around on and on. Angels exist, good people are among us. I’ve never doubted that. Once, when I was a teenager, I went hitchhiking to Portugal. I travelled without a tent, without any food. I had just one hundred dollars, a few friends and strong belief in people J I spent a month at the Rainbow Festival.I managed to get there and to come back home safe and sound. That was a beautiful adventure. Now, when I think about it, I know that back then the Lord was watching over me all the time – that was why I met people of a certain kind and certain events happened en route.
Never will Babilon see my tears, / Never will it know how it is inside of there.
We are both from Świdnik and when I was listening to this song, a reflection came to my mind. In July 1980 a strike broke out in Świdnik that started big changes in Poland and, later on, in Europe. During the time of the martial law so-called Świdnik Walks took place here. A short explanation for those who haven’t heard about that: when the main TV news started people put their TVs in the windows and went out for a walk, walking down the main street of the town to protest against the lies of the propaganda present in the communist TV. Those people didn’t want Babilon to see their tears or, to qoute another song from your album, „raised their voices” when the others were harmed. Nowadays, those events have been in a sense appropriated by a small group of people including politicians. Ordinary people who took part in those events don’t want to speak about what they did. They think, “How did all that help me? It didn’t” while the events that I’ve mentioned are something we can be proud of. Why do you think it’s happening? How do you see our future? Can we be optimists and repeat after the band Midnite “dem can’t conquer our genealogy”? Or will that events fall into oblivion?
It would be good to learn the art of looking at the past as something that could motivate us to take some positive actions in the future. Me and you influence the present and the future and we’re aware that our lives were influenced by the actions our predecessors had the courage to take. Our future will be the same as we are, the same as our children are. „As long as we live…” there is still hope.
Go ahead, because you have light in your. / just raise it higher so that no one can cover itIdź przodem, bo światło masz w dłoni. / tylko unieś je do góry, żeby nikt go nie zasłonił
In the interview for Weekend FM you mentioned that you hoped that listening to your songs people would realize that they were not alone, that there was someone who shared their way of thinking about certain matters. Do you have any visible proofs that something like that is happening, for example when you talk to people after concerts or when you read messages from your fans?
Yes. There’s really a lot of it. My belief in people gets confirmed. I didn’t have any specific expectations, I just wanted to share what I felt with others. I expected that someone could think about certain things in a similar way, but seeing how big this wave is fills me with belief that at the end of the day the world will finally choose the right path.
May the radio emits the waves that I like
Apart from rare exceptions, radio stations don’t usually play reggae songs. Reggae music, like rap music, makes people think, it asks questions that aren’t necessarily the ones that those ruling the media would like to hear. Can it be one of the reasons why the biggest stations don’t play too much reggae? Is it better for them to “breed“ obedient, unthinking listeners?
I think so. We aren’t very demanding and we underrate the importance of our decisions. Maybe the reason is the lack of time for searching for something true and sincere. If we speak about a few biggest commercial radio stations, then it’s true – there’s no choice. But we live in the times of the Internet. You can find there a lot of music that has some message, music that’s sincere and enriches your life. We shouldn’t give up and just let it go. If a certain station doesn’t fit your musical taste, change the station. Listen to what you like, not to what you have to listen to.
Since our last interview a lot has happened in your life. One of the most interesting events was probably playing the concert as a support before Mellow Mood and a visit to the concert of Gentleman – this time you were a listener. Did you have a chance to talk, at least for a moment, to those people? If you did, how was it?
I met one of the twins from Mellow Mood. It was a very positive experience. They even offered me a chance to appear on stage if I got carried away J I also met a very nice guy called Droop Lion. He’s now the vocalist of The Gladiators. He’s a typical Rasta, he likes to philosophise and he has a lot of interesting thins to say.
And what about the festival in Ostróda? Did you make any new “musical” friends there?
The best thing about Ostróda was the chance to meet the people I had been in touch with via e-mail or through someone else, people like Ras Luta, Pablopavo or my publisher Melon. I also met K-Jah, who made music to a few songs on my album, and a few people I had heard a lot about in the past, like Jarek Hejenkowski or Silver Dread. A lot of very nice memories are connected with Ostróda.
At the end, let’s talk for a moment about the music videos promoting your album. The first video was the clip to „Powstanie”. Where did you film it? Who was responsible for making the video? And, what is it like to play in a video directed by your wife?
We filmed it in different locations in Nowy Sącz, among others in the heritage park and the stud Jankowa. ProWizja Studio, a team from Nowy Sącz, did all the filming and eiditing, while my wife Magda was responsible for the script and directed the video. The best thing that can happen to you is to be surrounded by people who are in the right place and know what they do. That was the case with ProWizja, and that was, and is, the case with my wife. What I hold very dear in her is that she doesn’t accept half measures. If she realizes that something can be done – in this case something can be filmed better, she won’t let it go until her vision is accomplished. Then, how close the cameramen manage to come to this vision depends on how good their skills are. Later we have the result of that work – 800 000 views on YouTube in five months!
One of the most important characters in this music video is a horse. Did anything unexpected or funny happen during the filming because a horse played in the clip?
The horse in the music video is a symbol of freedom, and Badger really had a feel for the role. Filming the scene in which he stands on his hind legs wasn’t easy because just after doing it he went to a crazy, uncontrollled gallop :). The only thing that helped the crew to make him go into some specific direction, so that it was possible to catch him and retake the scene, was the view of two attractive mares standing nearby :).
The second music video – to to the song „Wracam do domu”– was made in cooperation with XVisuals, the studio that some people may remember from the music video to “Na Wschód” by ComeYah. It’s easy to see that a lot of awesome people with different talents and hobbies appeared on the set. Where did you find them?
Yes. The cooperation with XVisuals is a different story because in that case the shooting was spread out for more days. The most difficult and the most demanding day was the one we spent in Szczyrk. In response to the advertisement that a friend of ours showed on the local TV channel a lot of young people appeared on the set and played in the video. Besides, we were very lucky to have one of the best Polish paragliders, Paweł Faron, helping us while filming. Loads of people from Świdnik were eager to help. If there is a good idea, it’s really easy to find people help you. Again, Magda had a clear vision of how that should look. I’m very lucky for one more reason. My son Dawid feels the parts Magda writes for him and together we can strengthen our message to people even more. Having a chance to do it all together is a great power and grace.
We’re talking about your music videos. And what about you? Do you like watching videos of other artists? Do you have your favourite music video (not necessarily because you like the music, but because the video itself is special)?
One of the best Polish music videos I’ve seen is obviously the music video to the song „Tango Apaszowskie” by Projekt Warszawiak. If someone hasn’t seen it yet, I really recommend watching it. As far as foreign video clips are concerned, I often watch “Make it bun them” by Jr Gong and Skrillex.
What about the concert plans? Where will it be possible to listen to you in the nearest future?
From January we start our tour. I invite everyone to visit my page and my FB fanpage. There’s always up-to-date information.
Interview by Łukasz Garbol, November – December 2014
A few useful links:
Official page http://syjonfam.com/
Photos 1, 2 & 3 – promo photos from the artist’s pages. Big thanks to Damian and Magda, his wife, manager and the music videos’ scriptwriter for the photos 🙂 Photo 4 is a frame from the music video to “Powstanie” by Prowizja Studio. Photo 5 – a frame from the music video to “Wracam do domu” by Xvisuals. All photo copyrights belong to their respective owners.