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Journeys Through Jazz - ASHA.FM X KACPER

In PART II of ASHA.FM’s three-part documentary series 'Sounds of our Past’, Manchester-based DJ and photographer Kacper Pieta presents an wide-reaching exploration of how music has informed and been informed by his life, from the first influences of his parents as a child to retracing and engaging with his Polish heritage.


The documentary, made in late 2021, encapsulates an interesting moment as it marked Kacper’s increasing turn toward jazz. Following the film’s premiere on ASHA.FM, Cameron Evans (aka Zenrei) sat with him to discuss his work and thoughts.


The Trumpet Calls


Early in the documentary, Kacper describes an engrossing memory of walking through St Mary’s Square in Kraków with his grandmother and a pretzel, hearing the town’s emblematic bugle call which is played every hour in all four cardinal directions from the highest tower of St Mary’s basilica. The origin of the bugle call is reported to have been the opening and closing of the city gates. Though magnetising, this symbolic experience of Krakow contrasted with a lack of engagement with Polish music as a child:


“It’s funny, because at the time [that I made the documentary], I wasn’t fully in touch with my roots and I didn’t spend enough time in Poland. But now I’m feeling more that it’s important to explore and give back to it.”

Documentary still: St Mary's basilica, Kraków.

Formative experiences of music from his parents were more in a tradition of Edith Piaf, Grace Jones and The Cure, all of whom are featured in the show. This is why the show was an opportunity to exteriorise a growing journey into Polish heritage, particularly iconic jazz figures such as Urszula Dudziak and Krzysztof Komeda:


“Doing the show was an opportunity to showcase me connecting to a heritage of jazz that I wanted to be educated on, and that process itself was an education for me. It also gave me a lot of ideas for things I’d like to lean into going forwards. In that sense, the documentary really showed a moment in time of forging those connections.”

Documentary still: Polish jazz pianist Krzysztof Komeda.

Documentary still: Polish jazz singer Urszula Dudziak performs 'Papaya'.

Kacper also underlines the weight that this engagement carries, and the positionality a DJ occupies within a world of consumption and often unexamined cultural appropriation (a topic we discussed on a Poland dedicated episode of my radio show ‘Bars Across Borders’, which explores international hip-hop):


"When you’re a DJ, you have a real responsibility to know and properly represent what you’re sharing with people. I’ve understood that my Polish interest, particularly in jazz, is something unique that makes me different. Further down the line, I’d also love to document Brisbane’s jazz scene - I used to live there and felt really at home.”

What becomes obvious is that a new layer of digging, both geographically and musically, was underway at the time of the making of the documentary and has since advanced - one that will bear interesting results in Kacper’s future output:


“I’ll be going to Poland this autumn [2023] and connecting with my grandparents near Kraków - I’ll also hopefully spend some time in neighbouring countries and do some digging. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes and how I feel about it.”


Between Grinding and Grounding


Another interesting part of speaking with Kacper was hearing about his changing engagement with the music industry as his momentum grows:


“As time’s gone on and I’ve grown, I’ve needed to start thinking more seriously about where I want to go - that means playing the game more - branding myself clearly, posting more on socials, and valuing and pricing myself in a way that better reflects the amount of work I put into this.”

Moving down to Manchester has been a serious move from up in Glasgow. It’s the kind of change that has ripples much further beyond what it may seem:

“Moving down to Manny was only temporary initially. I lost my job in Edinburgh and had an opportunity to come down here. I feel in Manchester you’re always met with as much intention by the listener as you put into crafting the sets and digging for tunes - it feels like an incredible back and forth - something like tennis. Manny also helped me realise I was pigeonholing myself, and I’ve been feeling a lot of creative freedom here thanks to venues like NAM."

Kacper adds that lots of exciting projects are coming together at the moment:


“Growing up in Scotland, I’ve sometimes felt the need to get out. I feel like it’s the right place and time for me here [in Manchester] - I’ve just played at [UK festival] We Out Here, collaborating with [Liverpool based] Melodic Distractions and soundsystem NAM, and I’ve got an upcoming show on My Analog Journal. The gig I did at [London audiophile bar] Brilliant Corners changed things for me - I played straight vinyl for about 6.5 hours. I think it proved to myself and others that I’m a serious DJ. And I’m still repping the photography, too. There’s a lot more to come.”

However, balancing this growing momentum with a personal routine can be difficult, and Kacper’s also been taking positive steps in this direction:


“I’ve been trying to find more balance after a burnout I had in Manny because of working too hard. I’m hoping things will blossom in the future given how seriously I’ve been taking things. I really want to go part-time and focus on the music. I’m seeing where this capsule leads. And there’s other avenues to go down - I’d love to learn production and learn trumpet.”


Overall, the feeling of opportunity for Kacper DJ’ing in Manchester and his growing momentum in the scene is obvious. With that feeling of connection and being plugged into what makes him unique, Kacper’s workrate and vision is sure to take him far. Hearing his desire to learn trumpet and reconnect with and deepen his Polish roots this autumn reminds me of that childhood moment hearing the bugle and being locked into that original feeling of connection, something it’s vital to remember and stay tuned into when we expose our creative souls to the world.


Kacper updates me after the interview letting me know he’s secured a late September gig at Paul’s Boutique Record Store in Kazimierz, Kraków. As it has done for centuries, the bugle call signals the opening of gates.

If you haven’t checked out Kacper’s documentary yet, watch it here.

Cameron Evans is a writer, poet, and Russian to English translator. He also releases hip-hop as Zenrei. He can be contacted at zenrei.reizen@gmail.com.

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