Norman Nawrocki launches benefit album

DISPLACED/MISPLACED is a humanitarian album that gives voice to today’s issues

Norman Nawrocki combines heartfelt stories with harmonious, wild jazz and post-rock melodies on his new album, DISPLACED/MISPLACED. The music producer, violinist and writer will be launching the album on Friday, Feb. 10 at Casa Del Popolo. The album features songs that tell the stories of refugees, migrants, immigrants, temporary foreign workers and the homeless. His album launch will be a benefit show, where all proceeds from the album will be donated to Solidarity Across Borders and the Immigrant Workers Centre. Both organizations help defend and support the rights of immigrants and refugees.

Originally from Vancouver, Nawrocki comes from a Polish and Ukrainian family that migrated to Canada as refugees years ago. “My heart was broken in Vancouver, and I had friends in Montreal. They told to come there for a year. I have never left since,” said Nawrocki. Before finding his voice through music, Nawrocki worked as a freelance journalist. “It’s the journalist in me, always keeping my ears and eyes open for a story. DISPLACED/MISPLACED is pure music but, given its subject matter, it’s a timely album that voices the issues of today,” said Nawrocki. Since 1986, Nawrocki has played in various groups: Rhythm Activism, Da Zoque!, Bakunin’s Bum, The Flaming Perogies, The Bagg Street Klezmer Band, Crocodile!, Wild Plains and Mousekii. This won’t be Nawrocki’s first time playing at Casa Del Popolo, as the musician has performed there many times before with his previous bands. Although Nawrocki released this album as a solo project, he still jams with his other bands, including Da Zoque!, an Eastern European ensemble.

Lyrically, Nawrocki’s songs are generally based off of poems he has written. Instrumentally, he fuses violin, cello, accordion and piano. “I started off as a poet on a stage alone, then it became a guitarist duo. We called ourselves Rhythm Activism, and we became a full band. In 15 years, we released 15 albums and we toured the world,” he said.
The musician has also been teaching part-time at Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs for the past 10 years. The class he teaches is within the graduate program of Community Economic Development. “The class is about how music, poetry or comedy can help organize the community you work with. It’s about how you see art address the issues that are important to you,” said Nawrocki.

DISPLACED/MISPLACED brings forth eloquent stories with instrumentals that suit the precise sentiments of the sad and inspiring stories in each song. He said the stories from this album were based on conversations he had with different people, or observations. “I meet people everywhere and then I observe. I write down what I hear, I write down what I see and, if necessary, I have conversations with them,” said Nawrocki. He then depicts the story from the person’s perspective, through their voice. “I try to fictionalize the stories as much as I can all while staying true to the person’s story, and then I put it through music,” said Nawrocki.

The songs on the album are about the lives of refugees and people who have lost their homes for one reason or another. There are also songs that denounce racism, persecution, domestic violence, climate change and gentrification. “I did all this because I was watching migrants, refugees in boats being washed ashore, drowning. It was terrifying for them and it was horrible to watch. I thought, what can I do about this?” said Nawrocki. He said he turned these stories into music because he could not get the horrible images out of his mind.

Nawrocki began writing the album before the American presidential election. “I had no idea, when I was writing the album, that it would be even more timely today given the present attitudes towards immigrants, refugees and migrants. The album rings truer today than if I had released it a few months ago,” said Nawrocki. “Hopefully my music can bring people together to talk about these issues and figure out ways to fight them.”

The DISPLACED/MISPLACED album launch will take place at Casa Del Popolo on Feb. 10 at 9 p.m. It’s a free show, and Nawrocki’s benefit CD will be available to purchase. All proceeds will be donated to Solidarity Across Borders and to the Immigrant Workers Centre.

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