City centre, middle of the day. Valentine’s Day. It’s exceptionally pleasant weather, taking into consideration the standards of Polish winter. We meet in the hall. Rosalie. is smiling – she has finished her work for the day and has a free afternoon, which she will spend a part of with me, visiting places that are important for her for various reasons. She’ll tell me about those reasons during our trip.
We start at the Zamek Cultural Center, which is located in the Imperial Castle. A place well-known by every Poznań citizen, it’s an arena for cultural events, starting from exhibitions and theatre plays, through film screenings and concerts, finishing with art classes. The Imperial Castle started to be built in 1905 and was completed in 1910. During World War II, the castle was seriously damaged. Fortunately, it was possible to bring back grandness of the place via renovation and restoration. Rosalie. attended her singing lessons here. “I came here as a teenager. The possibility of singing in the choir was a great experience. Multiple vocals taught me fondness for harmony, and serious discipline. This is very important for me today.” Rosalie. wanders around the monumental corridors, as if she were at home and knew every corner.
“My older sister practised ballet, I sang. As a child, I couldn’t understand that my peers had never been to the philharmonic or the theatre. Actually, it’s not surprising – I was the only child in the backyard who attended music school.” She says that she wasn’t bullied because of it; rather, it taught her sensitivity, which she still succumbs to sometimes. “I’m very easily touched, I cry when watching films. However, sensitivity can be related to anything, not only to music or cinema. Even an old staircase can arouse emotions. This sensitivity is in my music. I talk about my experiences, sometimes between the lines, sometimes straightforward. I’m not just sharing my emotions – on one hand, it’s my way of dealing with them, but on the other hand I consolidate them within myself.”
We’re talking about music. We think about the role of R&B today. At the turn of the 1990s and 2000s, it was a popular music genre, familiar from MTV, the soundtrack of many a party. Today, R&B is reverting to more serious subjects. The best examples are the Knowles sisters, Beyoncé and Solange. Both of them are very inspirational to Rosalie.
“I’m glad they appeared in my life and that each of them played a different role for me. It started with Beyoncé, who changed my view towards music. She is the biggest artist in the world for me. She is real and honest in her creativity. Solange appeared in a different, but also important, moment in my life. She showed me that under beautiful harmonies, a difficult emotion can be hidden. Her last record is a masterpiece.” Rosalie. lists many artists among her idols, often from different genres. “I’ve become more and more open to music. Now it’s not only hip-hop and R&B that are the main source of inspiration for me. I’ve opened myself up to electronics and blues, I want to use them more in my music.”
On Garncarska Street, which, in spite of being situated in the city centre, feels completely forgotten, there’s a small restaurant. They serve traditional Polish dishes, including pierogi (dumplings). “I spent my early childhood in Berlin. When I came to Poland, a lot of things surprised me, unfortunately negatively. It was much more colourful in Berlin than here. However, what I miss the most is my dad, who’s a cook.” She adds that the kitchen is the most important part of her house. Family life centres there, you can talk about important and tough issues, solve problems, and simply eat.
That’s why today, living without parents, Rosalie. enjoys spending time in restaurants, taking her time drinking coffee and observing people. “When I started living in Poznań, I missed pierogi, which my dad used to make masterfully. One day he told me that on Garncarska Street, I will find a small restaurant where they serve delicious pierogi. I went and when I saw this place, I thought he was joking. But when I tried them, I knew he was right. They’re the best in the city.”
On the same street, a club called WOSK (wax) was located, a short-lived but legendary place for the Polish deep house music scene. It was where the first Poznań edition of the Boiler Room series was organised. The place attracted people who love deep house, disco or funky music with a Polish twist. The local DJs and producers were often associated with the Very Polish Cut Outs crew and famous label of Maciej Zambon. The club and the record label are now closed, but their spirit is still strongly felt in Polish music. There’s a lot of electronic music artists who combine parts of Polish hits from the 1970s and 1980s with the stylistic elements of deep house or disco in their production.
Today, Rosalie. lives in Poznań, but still often visits Berlin. She doesn’t have such a dim view of the Polish reality surrounding her anymore. “Poznań is blooming, becoming more and more interesting. Many young people are interested in art and are working on its development. I think this is true also of other bigger cities in Poland. Young people have a chance to change not only Polish people’s way of thinking, but also their sensitivity. It can affect other areas of life.” We’re walking down Święty Marcin Street, one of the most popular streets in Poznań, passing the Alfa buildings – four skyscrapers that were built in communist time.
Despite defacing the urban landscape of Poznań, they’re an important part of the city for many people, reminding them of the old times. We start a conversation about collaborations during recording. “My dream is to close myself in at home, somewhere far away from the world. Together with me there would be only producers with whom I would like to record. I believe that wonderful things could happen then.” We allow ourselves to dream. I ask Rosalie. about a producer with whom she would like to cooperate. “Sampha. No hesitation. This is exactly my sensitivity and style.”
We find ourselves in Jeżyce, a famous district in Poznań. For years, Jeżyce had a bad reputation because of the high level of crime. Today, that’s only a memory. There’s a lot of tiny but trendy cafes, restaurants and stores located in old tenements. And this is where we also have the Rialto, a small studio cinema. Poznań has the highest number of this kind of cinema in Poland, and Rialto is one of the most popular ones. You can watch both the biggest blockbusters and independent motion pictures here. “In my high school there was a film club. The school had a contract with a cinema. Already from early childhood I watched a lot of films, some of which I understood only much later. It’s an important experience.” An old-school neon sign shines on top of the cinema building. This is the end of our trip together – but Rosalie.’s major career is just beginning.