The wild and wacky career of Linsey Pollak in eight memorable moments

The wild and wacky career of Linsey Pollak in eight memorable moments

Words by Tom Parker

Linsey Pollak takes us through the most memorable moments of his 50-odd year career.

Linsey Pollak has forged quite a career across a wide breadth of musical disciplines. Since a young kid, Pollak showed an affinity to the creative space first picking up a $20 clarinet and then quickly finding his feet as an instrument maker. It was only up from there as Pollak learned new instruments, spent time overseas immersing himself in international cultures before then bringing his knowledge back to Australia to the betterment of the local music scene. He’s been a member of large orchestras while also cutting his teeth as a solo musician “live-looping” to make his name known.

On Wednesday July 15, Pollak will appear as part of The Boite’s Song Appetit series where he will cook dinner and then share music and stories from his fascinating career. The event comes as part of The Boite’s ongoing ‘Adapt, Not Cancel’ live stream series which can be enjoyed online from your very own home.

The beginning (1964)

When I was 11 years old, my mum found a clarinet for sale for $20 in the classified ads of the local paper and bought it for me. This led me to play everything from Mozart to The Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint it Black’ with my band The Rajazz (in year 8).

Pollak’s instrument making dream (1971)

At the age of 18, I remember discovering a bamboo grove and making my first bamboo flute. I found a love for the craft which led me to drop out of my Science degree at Sydney University to become a woodwind instrument maker.

Moving to Macedonia (1975)

As my knowledge and love for music grew, I moved to Macedonia and lived there for eight months. This occurred after I heard an album featuring the Macedonian gaida (bagpipe) played by revered gaida player Pece Atanasovski. It was love at first listen and led me to make the move and study gaida with Lazo Nikolovski near Skopje, the capital city of Macedonia. This totally changed my life!


Linsey with Lazo Nikolovski 

The birth of the ‘Pipi Storm’ community arts collective (1975)

Teaching kids the art of instrument making and putting on performances, the ‘Pipi Storm’ community arts collective was born. After taking ten kids to a children’s community festival in Canberra, we eventually had 25 people on board for a project that became an important springboard for community arts development in Australia. I remember travelling down the Murray River on rafts and starting performances for kids.

On rafts travelling down the Murray 

Opening the North Perth Ethnic Music Centre (1983)

I started the North Perth Ethnic Music Centre which continued for 30 years to become the Multicultural Arts Centre of Western Australia and eventually ‘Kulcha’, a very important part of Australian multicultural music. Kulcha was known for its fantastic acoustic music venue and welcomed acts from all backgrounds to perform. It closed in 2014.

A career-defining move to Queensland (1990)

In 1990, I moved to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland with my partner Jessica and had to re-invent myself as a musician. I started live-looping solo shows which became my ‘bread and butter’ and led to me creating 11 different solo shows. This would become a large part of my artistic life from then on as I toured these shows all over Europe and Asia from 1996 to 2018.

The inventiveness of Linsey Pollak in one video

One special Woodford Folk Festival moment (2014)

One key Woodford Folk Festival moment was getting renowned Australian vocalist Lizzie O’Keefe up to jam with me in the massive 24-piece Balkan-inspired street band, ‘The Unusual Suspects’, one New Years Eve. That led to me inviting Lizzie to join me in a project called Dangerous Song (an eco-music duo) which has became one of the main musical projects of my career and still exists today.

Linsey with Lizzie O’Keefe

A Woodford homage

Woodford Folk Festival has provided many key moments over a 30-year period. It’s an amazing and inspiring festival and is iconic in its importance to Australian culture. The festival has been very supportive of my work and a great deal of my projects have had world premieres there – it has been critical to my development as a musician, as it is for many Australian musicians.

Performing ‘The Dream of Zedkat Nabu’ at Woodford Folk Festival 2012/13

Linsey Pollak will appear live as part of The Boite’s Song Appetit series on Wednesday July 15. Grab tickets to the event here. Find out more about The Boite’s ‘Adapt, Not Cancel’ series here.

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