Mirosław Olszówka

Different Sounds Festival was created by Mirek Olszówka, a culture animator and creator, mime, director, manager, producer of records and cultural events.  He made the festival famous as its artistic director in the years 2008-2010.



In Lublin, he lived on the highest floor of a tenement at Rybna street. This is the Old Town, Lublin’s axis mundi. He had a great view from his windows, straight onto the city and right outside it. In Janowiec upon the Vistula river, he also found a magical place for his restaurant: a plateau overlooking the picturesque panorama of the biggest Polish river with Kazimierz Dolny in its background. It was hardly a coincidence that he wanted and could find such panoramic sites, enjoy them and bring their potential alive. He was just as lucky to have long-time friends and a great feel for time, its challenges and possibilities. Only now, when we recall and recapitulate Mirek Olszówka’s work halted by his untimely sudden death, we can see that his projects and activities were, in many ways, trailblazing and how exceptionally effective he was infusing his creative and managerial talents.


He started with the theatre; in 1979, as an amateur, he became a disciple in Jerzy Leszcyński Theatre of Vision and Movement studio, an experimental formation established by a follower of Henryk Tomaszewski that fused pantomime and dance with some visuals and music. The time was favourable for indie theatres – Lublin became their main area in the country, it was the birthplace for both theatres seeking new aesthetics and socially engaged theatres  – this is called alternative and remonstrates the reality of PRL. After five years Olszówka was awarded a ministerial diploma for mime actor. In 1988 he parted with Leszczyński theatre and established his own theatre Scena Ruchu with Małgorzata Mazurkiewicz. Together they created such performances as „Kalejdoskop”, „Popioły”, „Bolero”.


Working on ‘Popioły’ (1991) was crucial for Olszówka. It was at that time that he invited Voo Voo, Wojciech Waglewski’s group, to cooperate and compose music for the performance – and he attached himself to the musicians by becoming the band’s manager three years later. That was the direction Olszówka interests took: from the theatre he gradually moved towards music, from creation towards music and stage business and towards the role of a manager, the creator of artistic projects, always loyal to his geographical roots.

As stressed by Voo Voo, veterans of the indigenous mixture of rock, folk and world music active in the market since 1985, Olszówka was ‘the initiator and producer of all spectacular concerts and events signed by Voo Voo’. Meanwhile, ‘Popioły’, inspired by Edvard Munch’s paintings, were recorded by TVP 2 in 1994, and Voo Voo’s music was additionally recorded on the album ‘Mimozaika’.


He found premises for Scena Ruchu in Lublin in blocks of flats at Piłsudskiego Street – a feat exceptional in those times- where in 1991 he opened Lublin’s first big music club ‘Graffiti’. It had its own well-equipped stage. The stage design was done by Jarosław Koziara with whom Olszówka started a permanent collaboration (Koziara would go on to become the stage designer of Voo Voo’s concerts and album covers). ‘Graffiti’ quickly gained the status of the most interesting and most popular place in the city.

The first joint project by Olszówka, Voo Voo and Jarek Koziara was the memorable concert ‘Voo Voo and Friends’ in a quarry in Kazimierz Dolny on 15/16 July 1995; it was hailed the event of the year. Orkiestra św. Mikołaja, Homo Twist, Świetliki, John Porter, Kwartet Jorgi and, of course,  Voo Voo feat. Mamadou Diouf performed for an audience consisting of 10 thousand people. In 1997 Olszówka created ‘The fleet of united forces – the best singers performing Voo Voo’  featuring Kayah, Katarzyna Nosowska, Justyna Steczkowska, Stanisław Soyka, Grzegorz Turnau, Kazik Staszewski, Lech Janerka, Maciej Maleńczuk.


Another trailblazing project produced by Olszówka was Voo Voo’s musical performance featuring the distinguished actor Jan Peszek and his daughter Maria Peszek, an actress and vocalist. The event was called ‘Music with lyrics’ and it was first presented in  Osterwa Theatre in Lublin in 2002. This subtle performance directed by Piotr Cieplak related to a world that is just next to us though we usually do not understand it… The lyrics – which Waglewski called kokoryns – were written by children with cerebral palsy who had participated in the activities of a rehab facility in Cracow. Writing was their way of engaging in a conversation with the world around them.

In 2004 Mirosław Olszówka established the production company Kiton Art. In terms of both music and marketing, he accurately and effectively paired Voo Voo, among others, with Urszula Dudziak, Trebunie Tutki, and Ukrainian Haydamaky. His marketing and life’s success came with the release of an album by Kiton Art,  in cooperation with the largest Polish media group  Agora SA – the publisher of Gazeta Wyborcza and the producer of special editions. The following albums were released: ‘Trebunie – Tutki & Voo Voo’ (2007), ‘Waglewski i Maleńczuk. Koledzy. (2007), ‘Waglewski, Fisz, Emade. Męska Muzyka’ (2008), ‘Voo Voo i Haydamaky’ (2009), ‘Harmonia’ (2010).


When in 2008 he started the music and arts festival Different Sounds in Lublin, it was like settling into a very familiar space as he had been living in the Old Town even before it became such a popular place. The idea of locating the stage with a view towards Trynitarska Tower, a building which is an inseparable part of Lublin’s cityscape, was genius. Despite the fact that so many different events had been taking place in the Old Town’s main square, no one had thought to use the location in such an inspiring and perfect way.  Different Sounds at the time served to introduce the innovative idea of a partnership between a private company and the City of Lublin.

This is a festival taking place in the city space but, considering the size of the Old Town’s main square, it is also intimate and offers music which is far from mainstream trends but artistically ambitious and geared towards experimentation, the search for and fusion of many musical worlds.

It’s worthwhile to recall that the first edition of the festival featured such stars as: Morcheeba (Great Britain), Club des Belugas (Germany), Trebunie Tutki & Twinkle Brothers (Poland/Jamaica), Voo Voo & Haydamaky (Poland/Ukraine), Kroke, Kairos, MP3, Motion Trio, Osjan, Martyna Jakubowicz, Waglewski Fisz Emade, Waglewski & Maleńczuk, Marcin Masecki Trio. The music was – and still is – accompanied by music workshops, exhibitions and discussions that referred to the place and role of Lublin’s as the gate/border between old and current influences of the West and the East. The events within the festival always make use of the space around the Old Town’s main square, like the ancient Dominican |Monastery or cafes and pubs.

Olszówka’s ambition was that all new projects for which he paired up musicians, bands and musical cultures, rhythms and styles, should always end with the release of an album. This had been the case since the beginning, since the famous concert during the first edition of “Different Sounds”, when on 19 July 2008 Voo Voo gave a concert with Haydamaky; their joint release quickly gained the “Golden Album” award and was nominated for Fryderyk awards in 2009.

One of the Lublin-based newspapers wrote at the time: “It is important that Lublin has finally seen concerts by world-class performers, which didn’t seem possible so far. It is important that over the last few days, we were able to feel like citizens of a respectable European city with its own decent music festival because thus far it has always felt like our city is some musical backwater and to find good music one has had to leave”.

The Art & Music Festival Different Sounds festival was awarded the title of the Cultural Event of 2009 in Gazeta Wyborcza Lublin’s poll.


Aside from Lublin, Mirosław Olszówka had another beloved place – Janowiec upon the Vistula, a city promoted – largely owing to Olszówka’s actions – as a rival, quiet alter ego of Kazimierz Dolny. In 2002, he founded and ran “Stowarzyszenie Janowiec” – Janowiec Association.

First of all, he revived the Janowiec castle (along with the Granary and Barn belonging to the Nadwislańskie Museum) that used to be nothing more than picturesque ruins. He started organizing balls (discontinued 200 years ago), “theatre picnics”, “Castle bonfires”, shows “Light and Sound”, “Cabaret meetings: and, of course, concerts. He even invented a local type of bread, the yeast “Knight of Janowiec” and financed the castle’s trumpet call. He found a beautiful meadow right at the foot of the castle hill where Jarosław Koziara used a tractor to carve the soil for the first Polish land art. And the meadow located on top of a slope near the castle, that holds a wonderful view on Kazimierz Dolny, was where he established the restaurant “Manes”. The restaurant had a fantastic slogan – food with a view. Janowiec paid Olszówka back, bestowing him with honorary citizenship

He died after a long and serious illness that many knew nothing about. He was an optimist who seemingly fulfilled his dreams. When I met him in Krakowskie Przedmieście street in Lublin several days before his death, he was envisioning the next edition of Different Sounds… As always, he was smiling gently…


Grzegorz Józefczuk

Translation: Małgorzata S.