Szafrany 09On October 22, 2016, the Museum and Education Center hosted an extraordinary jubilee concert. On the 50th anniversary of establishing the Warka-based SZAFRANY band, the group of friends who had started the band decided to meet again on a stage and refresh their fans memory.

One of the group's founders Andrzej Gut was the driving force behind this idea and he was the one to start the concert by remembering the band's history from 1966 through 1983 during a multimedia presentation. Another presentation by Maria and Mikolaj Gut used old photographs and records, which they had collected from their friends, the band members, and their families. The introductory part finished on a high note with thunderous applause, bright smiles, and a few tears from the audience.

Worth noting is the band's history: 50 years ago, students from the Basic Vocational and Mechanics School for Active Workforce (Zasadnicza Szkola Zawodowa i Technikum Mechaniczne dla Pracujacych) in Warka founded SZAFRANY. The name comes from the flower of saffron crocus ("szafron" in Polish,) which grows in the Polish mountains. The band met for the first time in the autumn of 1965 and had its debut on March 27, 1966, at the Mechanical Equipment Factory (Fabryka Urzadzen Mechanicznych) in Warka. Their first concert was part of Metal Worker Day (Swieto Metalowca) celebrations, and another one accompanied the Blossoming Apple Trees Festival (Swieto Kwitnacych Jabloni) on June 23, 1966. The band included Janusz Proskura (lead guitar), Maciej Albert Zapart (guitar), Wojciech Koc (guitar), Krzysztof Rudnicki (bass guitar), Leszek Manczarski (drums), Andrzej Wilczynski (technician and acoustician), Elzbieta Proskura (singer), and Andrzej Gut (singer). The band played instrumental songs by the British rock band The Shadows, American instrumental rock band The Ventures and famous Polish rock bands like The Blue and Blacks (Niebiesko Czarni), The Red and Blacks (Czerwono Czarni), and Red Guitars (Czerwone Gitary). Audiences seemed to love the band, which captured their hearts as soon as the first notes filled concert halls. Principal Jozef Piekut accepted the band's proposal to buy music equipment for the school, so that SZAFRANY could play a wider range.

SZAFRANY added new items to their song list, and played during various school and town events. It participated in competitions in Warka, Bialobrzegi, Grojec, Pruszkow, Zyrardow, and Warsaw. Finally, the band took the ultimate step and started creating their own pieces: "Who knows" (Bo kto wie), "Girl in flowers" (Dziewczyna posrod kwiatow), and "Steps" (Na schodach). In June 1966, Krzysztof Rudnicki left the band and was replaced by Wojciech Koc. Also Teresa Panek (guitar) joined the band, but soon left, to be replaced by Andrzej Gut. The first hit singles "Spring" (Wiosna) and "Walk" (Spacer) were played all over the town. In January 1968, Maciej Zapart replaced Wojciech Koc on bass guitar. Starting from January 1968, SZAFRANY played each Saturday and Sunday in the Pitch Club (Piekielko) in Warka during dance nights. In May 1968, drummer Leszek Manczarski left the band and was replaced by Stanislaw Bogdan Pszczolka. Vocalist Barbara Lebiedz joined the band.

The band was now made up of Janusz Proskura (lead guitar and vocal), Andrzej Gut (guitar and vocal), Maciej Zapart (bass guitar and vocal), Bogdan Pszczolka (drums), and Barbara Lebiedz (vocal). For a short time, the band also featured a gypsy singer Malina.

On September 1, 1968, the band played its final concert in the Pitch Club. Maciej Zapart and Bogdan Pszczolka were forced to leave the band following conscription. The rest, including Janusz Proskura (lead guitar and vocal), Andrzej Gut (bass guitar and vocal), and Barbara Lebiedz (vocal), were joined by Stanislaw Milewski (drums and vocal). The band continued to play until mid-1969, and was later dissolved.

SZAFRANY met again in 1973. Janusz Proskura (lead guitar and vocal), Andrzej Gut (bass guitar and vocal), Tadeusz Tulo (accordion, keyboard, vocal), and Bogdan Pszczolka (drums) played at dance nights in the RUCH kiosk and newsagent club in Warka, during various commemoration ceremonies, and at parties and proms. In 1975, Wladyslaw Bogucki replaced Bogdan Pszczolka on drums, and Krzysztof Gaczynski replaced Tadeusz Tulo on keyboard. Gaczynski stayed with the band until 1980.

After the introduction of Martial Law in Poland, in 1982, SZAFRANY played several concerts. Vocalist Malgorzata Skrzypczak joined the band. SZAFRANY broke up again on December 31, 1983.

In June 1997, 19 years ago, the band came together once more during the final concert entitled "In After Years" („Spotkanie po latach"), featuring Bogdan Sabala (lead guitar). Janusz Proskura (lead guitar and vocal), Maciej Zapart (guitar and vocal), Andrzej Gut (bass guitar and vocal), Bogdan Pszczolka (drums), Wladyslaw Bogucki (drums) played old songs from when the band first got together.

In 2005, when The Casimir Pulaski Museum in Warka celebrated the 40th anniversary of Andrzej Gut's stage debut, the town reverberated with songs from SZAFRANY repertoire, as sung by Janusz Proskura, Bogdan Sabala, and Andrzej Gut.

After 50 years, the band once more stepped onto a stage. The jubilee concert by SZAFRANY filled the concert hall of the Museum and Education Center with a crowd of friends and fans. Maciej Albert Zapart (guitar and vocal), Andrzej Gut (bass guitar and vocal), Krzysztof Gaczynski (keyboard), Wladyslaw Bogucki (drums), Stanislaw Bogdan Pszczolka (drums), Wojciech Koc (harmonica), featuring Bogdan Sabala (guitar) played in front of an audience, which included former band members Malgorzata Skrzypczak, Andrzej Wilczynski, and Krzysztof Rudnicki. The applause continued to hit the band throughout the concert. The wonderful reception, heaps of good humor, Andrzej Gut's and Maciej Zapart's comments, and the effortlessness, with which the band played after such a long break created an unforgettable atmosphere around the event. The band's hit songs like "Walk" (Spacer), "Spring" (Wiosna), and "Girl in flowers" (Dziewczyna posrod kwiatow) were sung by the entire room, and encores seemed to go on forever.

Just like any serious jubilee, the event sprang surprises. Grojec District Governor Marek Scislowski had written special congratulatory letters, which the band members received from the hands of District Councilor Wieslaw Czerwinski. The Casimir Pulaski Museum in Warka together with the Manor at Dluga Street (Dworek na Dlugiej) presented the band members and audience with a marvelous jubilee cake. The Manor at Dluga Street additionally issued a record with the band's music, which was distributed among the entire audience.

SZAFRANY, the Manor at Dluga Street, and The Casimir Pulaski Museum in Warka would like to invite all those who did not receive free tickets for the jubilee concert to come and see another one on November 26, 2016, at the Museum and Education Center. Invites for the SZAFRANY ENCORE (SZAFRANY NA BIS) concert can be collected at the Manor at Dluga Street and The Casimir Pulaski Museum.

Iwona Stefaniak
The band's history based on materials by Andrzej Gut