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Jolanta Danak-Gajda


Category IV. Scientific research, documentation and animation, popularization of folk culture

Field of activity:
ethnographer, musicologist, reporter in Polish Radio – Rzeszów, dealing with popularisation of folk music, artists and regional groups on local and national level, author of articles and record releases dedicated to folk music, judge at folklore compet

Łańcut, woj. podkarpackie

Jolanta Danak-Gajda was born in 1959 in Grodzisko Dolne in the Rzeszów region. In 1978 she began university studies in the field of ethnography in 1978, and soon expanded her interests to include musicology; she studied the intricacies of ethnomusicology under the guidance of Professor Bogusław Linette. As a student, she joined the Song and Dance Ensemble of the Poznań Technical University, learning about the folklore of the Wielkopolska region, dances and songs, traditional instruments, playing bagpipes. Participation in annually organised camps and ethnographic expeditions in selected regions and places in Poland formed an important part of her initiation in the field of folk culture. As a student she was also involved in a research project of Vienna University on participation in culture in Wielkopolska. Jolanta Danak-Gajda started her work in Polish Radio – Rzeszów in 1986, in the department of Music Editing. Right from the beginning, her tasks included music recording and compilation of original music programmes about folk music and folk artists. The programmes and materials developed by Jolanta Danak-Gajda were broadcast both on Rzeszów regional radio and nationwide. Her main radio programmes included, among others, the weekly Folk Monday and To a Folk Tune – a daily radio series. Since 1992, she has been running a very popular interactive radio programme The Poll of Polish Radio Rzeszów Bands, which allows listener participation. Every Sunday, listeners can vote for the best folk bands from nearly eighty groups from various musical provinces in the Subcarpathian region. These bands are systematically presented on the radio by Jolanta Danak-Gajda and every month, on the last Sunday, she announces the ten most popular bands.

Jolanta Danak-Gajda creates radio programmes dedicated to the activities of folk artists, musicians, bands and regional ensembles. She has also written numerous radio documentaries on social and cultural issues. Thirty five years of continuous presence on the radio and in the field made her an acknowledged expert on the folk culture of the Subcarpathian region. She wrote numerous articles and studies, played the role of a judge at competitions and folk festivals (for example, she was a member of evaluation committees at the Polish Festival of Folk Bands and Singers in Kazimierz Dolny on the Vistula River, the Polish Festival of Young Folklore in Bukowsk, the Folk Music Festival – Mikołajki Folkowe in Lublin and international folklore festivals such as the Carpathian Festival in Trzcinica. She can boast of cooperating with the publishing house Polonia Records, whereby she completed a series of record albums within the Polish Folk Music series of folk music from the Subcarpathian region (exemplary titles of the records: Kapela Gacoki (Gacoki Band), Kapela Władysława Pogody (Władysław Pogoda Band), Kapela Graboszczanie (Graboszczanie Band)).

Jolanta Danak-Gajda is the author of four programmes founded by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Carpathian Foundation. These radio programmes include, among others, Dances of Subcarpathian Region, Family Rites and Annual Rites in Subcarpathian Region both produced in the Polish Radio – Rzeszów and Folk Music in Subcarpathian Region – created in cooperation with Polonia Records.

Using the digitised archival materials of the Polish Radio – Rzeszów, Jolanta Danak-Gajda conceptually developed and coordinated the implementation of a multimedia project entitled The Podkarpacie Ritual Calendar, which is a comprehensive resource of data on annual regional rites and rituals, with educational materials for schools, rituals and folk groups operating in Polish communities abroad. The website www.tradycjepodkarpacia.pl and the Record Publishing House have published radio stories on regional rituals and rites in Subcarpathian area as well as ethnographic and musicological publications. All of this has been supplemented with illustrations, archival and contemporary photographs and sound recordings of traditional music, as well as notation transcriptions of selected ritual songs.

Jolanta Danak-Gajda has also been engaged in scholarly projects organised by the Ethnographic Museum in Rzeszów and the Museum of Folk Culture in Kolbuszowa. These included, among others, Międzypokoleniowa Sztafeta Folkowa. Prace terenowe (Folk Intergenerational Relay. Field studies), Muzyczne Podkarpacie (Music in the Subcarpathian Region), Tradycje Wilkanocne Podkarpacia (Easter Traditions in Subcarpathian Region), Folklor Rzeszowiaków – obraz przemian (Folklore of Rzeszów Inhabitants – A Portrait of Transformations), Kolędowanie na Reszowczyźnie (Carolling in the Rzeszów Region).

Jolanta Danak-Gajda is also the author of the screenplay for two documentary films Siła tradycji (The Power of Tradition) – dedicated, among other things, to the aspect of intergenerational transmission of musical folklore in Subcarpathian Region and Zapisane w terenie (Inscribed in the Field) – depicting the intergenerational transmission of knowledge about the construction of folk musical instruments in the Subcarpathian Region.

Jolanta Danak-Gajda is also Vice-Chair of the Rzeszów section of the Polish Journalists Association, a member of the Polish Media Owners Association and the National Club of Reporters. For her long-standing commitment to the promotion and dissemination of Polish folklore, she received numerous awards, including the Silver Cross of Merit, Franciszek Kotula Prize and twice – the Marshal of the Subcarpathian Voivodeship Award for her lifeʼs work.

Maria Baliszewska