Friday, 6 May 2011

Learning English: Cabaret

I said somewhere that I was still learning English. This time it is the word 'cabaret'.

It's a word that was part of my acquaintal, rather than employed vocabulary, if those are the right words. I knew it enough that if someone had said to me 'there is going to be a cabaret", I would have understood that there was a show or entertainment included. However, I was not so sure of the extent of its meaning that I would have in turn said there was a cabaret when I was telling someone about the show.

I was recently listening to Charles Brown, when it occurred to me that he is the one entertainer that I would like to have at a restaurant where I was having dinner. I like his music, obviously, but he has a personality that, even on his records, gives a feeling of intimacy with the audience and, although his music is often rhythmic, its balance with more melodic songs means that the constraint of sitting at a table would not spoil the entertainment.

This type of music maybe of limited interest to most people, but I absolutely recommend it to any person trying their best to play piano - his ability to play amazing flows of notes without even taking any notice of what he is doing is awe inspiring. Merry Christmas, Baby:

Charles Brown - Merry Christmas Baby przez goldrausch

However, I struggled to think what word would describe such a show, sitting at a table during or just after a meal.

It was only today, after hearing a Polish Kabaret on the radio, that I looked into the two meanings.

My English dictionaries confirmed that it was entertainment provided to people sitting at tables in restaurants or clubs (presumably therefore for a meal or possibly just a drink) - see the film Cabaret.

However, I am still reluctant to talk about seeing Charles Brown in cabaret. It sounds wrong to me. I'm not sure why, but I think it's because of the impression that cabaret artists are second quality performers, with those of exceptional quality making it to 'ex-cabaret artist' standard. I would therefore probably have to use a formula something like 'seeing Charles Brown performing in cabaret' although even this feels rather demeaning for a such a first class performer. Strange, maybe, but that's the way it is.

Not that it matters now, since he died in 1999, but his music endures.

'Kabaret' in Poland seems in practice to mean a theatre based comedy show. At least, there seem to be a large number of 'Kabaret', which are exactly that. The English and Polish words therefore seem to have different meanings. However, Polish-English/English-Polish Dictionaries largely equate cabaret and kabaret. Not only do none of them refer to sitting at a table rather than use of theatre style seating, one of them specifically identifies both 'kabaret' and 'cabaret' as theatrical. They are all appear to be wrong, therefore.

Polish dictionaries confirm that the primary meaning of 'kabaret' is theatre based, although the type of entertainment described, including dancing and singing, is much broader than the most of the Polish Kabaret that appear on TV. There is a secondary meaning of a restaurant or cafe (rather than the entertainment itself) that provides a show (while people are at their tables). One of them describes the show as mainly being satirical - light entertainment (rozrywkowy). Maybe the meaning in Polish is evolving.

Whatever, I would like to go to see and experience a Polish Kabaret. However, to be honest, the main reason is to confirm that it's something I would never have ever wanted to experience in the first place, although it would be rather nice to find it is something better as a live experience than watching it on TV. For some reason, they remind me of comedy acts that appeared on a British TV show reproducing (pre-television) music hall entertainment (Olde Tyme Music Hall?). There must be better comparisons with more modern English comedy, but the only other thing I can think of is Monty Python without its silliness and overall sense of fun.


Tefl Secretagent said...

Polish 'Kabaret' seems to be quite popular on television but I just dont get it. Maybe because the humour doesnt translate well into my dense English brain. I watched one recently (on youtube) - I think it's called Mra Mra or Mru Mru but I remember thinking all the jokes were like ones from a timewarp or something.

Are there any good Polish stand-ups?

ajuc said...

Kabaret moralnego niepokoju is best Polish kabaret IMHO.

If this sketch doesn't work to you, then I'm sorry, kabaret is not for you :)

Standups are only popular recently, and most of them were not too funny, maybe it's my dense Polish brain that doesn't get it, I don't know.

Standups - Cezary Pazura, Grzegorz Halama

Tefl Secretagent said...

Ok, this is good caberat - with an Irish twist but it's freaking hilarious.

Miaou said...

Cabaret, it seems, became popular amongst college/community clubs/orgs during Communist times and still appeals to folks outside the main cities. It gets a lot of time on mainstream TV still. Stand up is pretty shit, according to my wife's family. There is little tradition or mainstream TV/radio/club support for it. I guess the best current example of comedy with a big following on TV is the Szymon Majewski show.