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Jarmila Xymena Gorna

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Biography of Jarmila Xymena Gorna

London-based artist of Polish/Jewish origin, Jarmila Xymena Górna [Yarmeela Kseemena Goorna] was born into a very musical family in Lodz, Poland. Her mother used to be an opera singer in the Grand Opera House, and she kept working until a few hours before Jarmila’s birth. Though her singing style isn’t operatic, she feels that the prenatal experience of being surrounded by multi-layered choir harmonies was a primary musical influence.

Jarmila started composing at the age of 5. Subsequently, her parents sent her to a specialist music school at the age of 7. There, she was trained for 12 years to become a classical pianist. Her 2nd instrument was guitar, which proved very useful, when later on Jarmila formed a folk ensemble Sovay, where she sang and played acoustic guitar.

Jarmila graduated from Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music (Jazz and Pop Music Faculty) in Katowice, Poland. While at the college, she formed a band Sovay, whose repertoire consisted of traditional English ballads from the 18th and 19th centuries as well as American & British folksongs, all of which were arranged in a modern way, through the use of electric and bass guitars and keyboars. The band was very successful. It toured around the country (incl. supporting Michael Urbaniak) and had been featured in a half-hour documentary on Polish TV. Jarmila had been acclaimed a “Queen of Folk Singing”. She was also active on a rock music scene of Poland by contributing as a singer and keyboard player to several prominent rock bands, such as T.Love. She sang at Michal Lorenz’s soundtrack to the film “Zaklad”. She did two in-field researches in England and former Yugoslavia on the countries’ folk music.

Jarmila came to London in 1990, when by shedding the stylistic references of her musical past, she was free to reinvent a truly authentic sound. Her task was to find “her own voice”, both literally and metaphorically. She was determined to remove all influences of jazz, soul and even folk from her vocal phrasing and her voice’s timbre. And so, a period of experimentation on voice and piano had begun.

A platform for that was provided by an east London pub, the Trolley Stop, whose proprietor programmed Jarmila fortnightly for a period of 2 years. Trance-Magic Piano Sessions, as she promoted that evening of piano/voice improvisation, developed into the multi-media performances, where Jarmila would be seen collaborating with Polish and German visual artists, presenting their super-8, video and slides’ projections. She also had dancers and other musicians occasionally join her to contribute their spontaneous improvisations. The Trance-Magic Piano Sessions grew into quite a trendy, bohemian, avant-garde night and gathered a huge following. ("Very popular” Avant Magazine).

The fruit of this musical soul quest is her album ‘Hashgachah’, released on 33 Records in 2004. Jarmila creates there a unique musical style by bringing together her talents as a composer, vocalist and pianist. Her innovative wordless vocal pyrotechnics, influenced by the Balkan and Tatra singing styles go far beyond any description or classification. The listener is continuously challenged by her unconventional ideas as she takes full advantage of her four-octave range. Górna's passionate and accomplished piano playing, mixing Western jazz styles with more folk/world melodies, is the backbone for her breathtaking, soaring vocal choirs. These are the core elements around which she builds subtle arrangements for double bass, percussion, brass and oud.

Górna's wild and arresting live performances (see reviews on the Press Release sheet) in many renowned London venues, such as the ICA, Jazz Cafe, Vortex, Union Chapel, The Spitz, Ray’s Jazz and Cargo have generated a faithful and enthusiastic following. She’s been also promoted by Chick Corea’s Italian promoter and performed in Catania, Sicily, 2005. She performed at the Big Big World Festival in Scotland, 2005 and Women in Tune Festival in Wales, 2006.

It isn't often that the music world produces such a complete "all-in-one" artist. Apart from her vocal and pianistic skills, Górna is a high-class composer and arranger with unlimited possibilities and an instantly recognizable style of her own. Her debut album is a brilliant sign of things to come. A charismatic artist in the making.

Jarmila is also active as a composer for theatre and film which has seen her scoring the soundtrack to the Brunton Theatre Company’s production of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (“The spirit of a fractured Eastern Europe is evoked by Górna’s gorgeous score” – Scotland on Sunday) as well as contributing to the stunning multi-media show “The Singularity” at the Albany as part of the 1998 London International Mime Festival. She sung on the soundtrack of the Italian feature film “Luna Rossa”, 2001. Equally, she has been a guest lecturer on the subject of extended vocal techniques at Cambridge University. Both BBC and Polish Radio as well as TV have featured her work and interviewed her in the past. In 2004, she has been chosen for nomination in a category of ‘newcomer’ by the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards.

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