As a “Big Man” in Ghanaian society the trick is to marry early. Give your wife at least two children sharp. After the firstborn, and certainly by age thirty or so, on a diet of oily, starchy foods and sweet cakes with no exercise, she should have already turned into “Big Mama.” You know, grossly overweight with everything hanging out. You may have already seen the American caricature on screen; huge sagging breasts, big belly, giant thighs and an even bigger behind.
What does it matter that the once slim young woman you married now waddles in fat and can barely walk anywhere? Or that your children may inherit the obesity trait and your daughters will most likely follow in their mother’s untimely footsteps to deadly diabetes and heart disease?
Here in Ghana, where we equate size with wealth and power, the hefty mother of your children is already seen by all and sundry as the wife of a very rich man indeed–a “Big Man.” And as long as you can afford to keep her latest hairdo done, and provide a “home used” 4×4 all-terrain vehicle for her to roam about in at will, she’ll be happy enough to just play “de madam” of the house for the rest of her natural life.
Leaving you with enough time on your hands to go chase the young skirts, and maybe even a few tight trousers, too. For your wife and you now live very separate lives, still under the same roof but in separate bedrooms. You may come together for church, but only on Sundays and funerals. Not that you would have it any other way. You have finally arrived. You are now a “Big Man.” No more small boy-ooo.
Better known in Poland as one half of the duo, Przytuła & Kruk, Bartek Przytuła is worthy of attention in his own right as a blues vocalist, rebellious rascal, undisputed blues fan, and interpreter of all types of music that might make you shiver.
With the accompaniment of a guitar and harmonica, he very quickly gains your attention, and although the blues may be considered a monotonous and even boring genre by some folks, his performances are always original, due in part to his rye sense of humour and an enormous amount of unbridled musical emotions flowing straight from the heart. His music is inspired by Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, BB King, Buddy Guy, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, Willie Dixon, Big Joe Williams, and Robert Lockwood Jr–to name just a few–and this too adds a certain texture and mesmerizing context to his performances on stage.
Working with Tomasz Kruk on guitar, their performances over the last three years have notched up an impressive array of awards in every contest they have entered. So far this year alone:
Victory on the small stage competition of the Rawa Blues Festival and a gig on the main festival stage of biggest Poland’s biggest blues festival in 2010. First prize at the VI Galicia Blues Festival in Krosno and a recording session in Studio OTD (2010). Winners of the Power Flower Festival in Opatów (2010). Runners-up in Olsztyn Blues Review competition in their first joint appearance (2010). Second prize and a Audience Award at the festival Las, Woda i Blues in 2010. President of Nowa Sól Award for vocalist Bartek Przytuła at the V Solówka Blues Festival (2010). The Audience Award at the XIX Blues Nad Bobrem festival (2010).
Fresh from Katowice with a shaved head and a significant new win at an important gig on the main stage of the Rawa Blues Festival, we caught up with Bartek Przytuła to find out what makes him tick.
What drew you to the blues?
Generally, blues gives me a thrill, makes me high. It makes me shiver, and for me, it’s a quest and a pleasure to give it to others through my gigs. I remember when first heard the blues: it was John Lee Hooker’s “Boom, Boom” and I was then 10-years old and heard it on some kind of commercial. I didn’t realize that there was a whole category of such music.
What blues musicians inspire you and why?
The things that I truly admire in music are originality and emotions, no matter what kind of music it is. That’s why I really love listening to Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, BB King, Buddy Guy, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, Willie Dixon, Big Joe Williams, and Robert Lockwood Jr.
How did you learn to play guitar?
I started playing guitar when I was more into rock and heavy metal at around thirteen or fourteen years old. I was being taught by my older cousin. I stopped playing systematically after some time because of a temporary loss of interest in music, and later I started to learn how to sing. For a year, I was being taught by a professional opera singer, and since then, I’ve never stopped singing—just fell in love with it! A few years later I came back to guitar just to have an opportunity to be independent when needed.
Can white men sing the blues?
White guys very rarely really can sing the blues. To me, it seems that most white people are more into diligence; accuracy and versatility while black musicians are more innovative and great at feeling the music. These characteristics often make whites fine instrumentalists but vocals should be primarily emotive. That in my opinion is why black people are better vocalists in general.
But as always, there are some exceptions such as Dr. John and Randy Newman—it’s the feeling it invokes, that’s what makes it the blues.
Is blues music as popular in Poland as reggae?
Well, no, neither genre is very popular in Poland. Blues mostly appeal to older people while reggae is for young ears.
What kind of gigs do you normally play in Poland, and are you looking to bring your music to London?
In Poland, I play in duet called Przytuła&Kruk where we play old Delta music and songs of our own. We’ve taken part in a number of contests and have been fortunate to get some kind of award in every competition we’ve entered, even winning two of them, Galicja Blues Festiwal in Krosno and Flower Power Festival in Opatów. We’ve also recently recorded our first album and hope that it will be available to buy in Poland by the end of the year. I can’t wait to play a few gigs in London but I see it as an opportunity start playing as a solo artist.
For more information about Bartek Przytuła and upcoming gigs, visit the website he shares with Tomek Kruk: www.przytulkruka.pl
Gary Barlow shattered the dreams of X-Factor hopeful Misha Bryan by telling her she won’t win the X-Factor because of wrongful bullying allegations made by his fellow judges. And much has be written suggesting that Misha is too Black to win the competition, while others have pointed out that Black contestants have won in the past. But is there a difference between then and now?
Leona Lewis won the third series of X-Factor in 2006 because Simon Cowell championed her cause; and she is after all bi-racial with coloured eyes and ‘blonde’ hair, which the British public ‘connect with’ more than the attributes of dark-skinned brown-eyed women of obvious African descent. Furthermore, she has a good, commercially appealing Mariah Carey-style voice and with that “international beige” complexion that is said to sell more records even without any talent attached in this supposedly ‘colour-blind’ world. Yet, the programme makers still found it necessary at the time to bring out Leona’s white mother and grandmother just to remind the good British public that Miss Lewis was in fact just one of them, if a little dusky round the edges.
Alexandra Burke, on the other hand, won the fifth series of X-Factor in 2008 largely because of the Cheryl Cole factor. As her mentor, Cole tried every trick in the book to persuade the folks at home to vote for her protégée, which of course indirectly meant a vote for our Cheryl. If you recall back then, Cheryl performed in-between the voting and all manner of other attempts were made throughout the series to persuade us that we were really voting for Cheryl Cole, our new English Rose, to win the competition between judges that year. Who knows how Dannii Minogue must have felt about it all, but for Cowell, it was an absolute Godsend, driving even more viewers to his moneymaking venture.
That’s not to suggest that Alexandra Burke had no talent, she had it in abundance, but those who know how racially motivated Britain can be were waiting with baited-breath to see if a dark-skinned woman of African descent could actually win this thing. That Burke was taller, leggier, and eurocentrically ‘better looking’ than Misha B, false hair ‘n’ all, played an important role. But we were grateful nonetheless to think that change had come to Britain. It is interesting to note that Burke’s career has never gone beyond the highpoint of her X-Factor win or the Hallelujah single that followed it. It seems that after X-Factor, no one really knows quite what to do with her talents, and she has ended up looking like some forlorn drag queen rather than the international artiste we all presumed she would become. But that mantle is reserved for Leona Lewis in the Cowell stable, and even he still believes lighter is brighter, and will no doubt be backing the Leona Lewis clone, Melanie Amaro, now that Drew is out of the runnings on X-Factor USA. But I digress.
Back in Little Britain, and many are wondering what is it exactly that the British public have against Misha B or her gorgeous mentor, Kelly Rowland, and the fact is they’re just too damn dark and too good for this place. And without Simon Cowell or Cheryl Cole to indirectly big them up, just who the hell do they think they are, anyway, with all that brimming confidence as if they’re better than everybody else is. And that’s just it, they are better than everybody else on that show is, and Britain doesn’t like it one little bit. But the good British public will never express their racist feelings outright (as many Americans might), but like Tula Paulinea “Tulisa” Contostavlos, herself a foreigner, they will find some trumped up excuse to justify their envy and xenophobia or simply put it down to they’re just not likeable or like us, meaning “white” or “English.”
In the final analysis, the only bullying that’s taken place on this year’s X-Factor is the bullying of Misha B. But should she win this eighth series of X-Factor UK, we could safely say that Simon Cowell’s moneymaking ‘talent show’ has single-handedly changed the social consciousness and fabric of Britain and Britishness forever. But that’s unlikely to happen me thinks. The truth is that whether Misha wins this show or not, she truly belongs in the USA as an export to Britain alongside the likes of Missy Elliott or the evergreen Grace Jones. Thank God for producers like Jay-Z with the money, power and influence to make her dreams a reality in this so called entertainment business. I’m sure that with a word from his friend Kelly Rowland, he can see Misha’s talent and hear the ca$h tills ringing. Simon Cowell isn’t the only music mogul in town.