15 September 2015

Music from beyond the grave - Tigersapp

It was on radio that I heard a very strange story. A home made CD with four song titles had arrived at EMI Music Co. and was simply labelled “Szymon”. There was no other information, no accompanying letter and only a return address for somewhere in Newcastle, New South Wales.

The music came from Szymon Borzestowski (1989-2012) whose family consis­t­ed of Polish parents Anna and Andrzej, and their Aust­ralian-raised children Eva, Kubush, Szymon and Dominik. All the children learned music; Eva was the singer, Dom learned drums and Kubush the guitar. But it was Szymon who was talented across many instruments - he had studied saxophone and clarinet, taught himself guitar and piano, and then got involved in composition.

Szymon became serious about music in his final year at high school and then devoted all his energies to writing and recording throughout the next year. The teen originally crafted every note in his bedroom, using whatever rudimentary equipment he could grab hold of. By the end of 2008 he had completed four excellent songs and sent them as a demo to various people. Brokenworld had lyrics; the other three were instrumentals.

There were a couple of rejection letters but he heard nothing more, so like every Australian before him, he flew out for a few months to Europe and Africa. It was only after he left Australia that father Andrzej sent the demo tape to EMI.

Szymon Borzestowski
on his overseas travel

EMI’s Mark Holland remembers the day in 2008 he and his EMI colleague Craig Hawker plucked this unsolicited demo tapes from a huge stack in the office. Record labels typically received hundreds of tapes a week and prob­ably had the time to listen to only a handful. Mark Holland was delighted when he heard the unknown teenager’s music - it was a seductive blend of folk, pop and electronica.

Mark Holland and Craig Hawker became the men who encouraged the singer to follow his musical dream. They helped Szymon Borzestowski get some better equipment with a development deal and across the next two years, Szymon agreed to send in the songs as he finished them. What they did not know was that in January 2010 Szymon had been hospitalised and medicated for the first time for depression. There were more hospitalisations where psychiatrists tried different combinations of medication but nothing helped.

In fact, Szymon’s mental state was fast deteriorating. He could not face the prosp­ect of finishing an album, of having to promote it on tours and in radio interviews. Sometimes he attempted to create new music but would immediately erase the files out of rage and frustration. He was destroying his own legacy. Even the tracks that did survive had been cast aside and neglected before completion.

When Szymon died at his own hand in late 2012, EMI had only one album’s worth of songs ready to be finished. The family searched for other works in Szymon’s bedroom, but they could not unearth his hard drive. So along with Holland and Hawker, the family agreed there was just enough care­fully crafted electronic folk-driven music which could be mixed and completed.

The family still listen to their late son and brother’s music. Sometimes it is a sad experience; other times they are delighted knowing that his musical gifts are finally being shared with the world. To hear some of Szymon’s beautiful, shimmering and ethereal music, go to Tigersapp which was released on August 21st 2015, nearly three years after his passing in December 2012.


I have heard of other musicians having their music released posthumously. In 1982, two years after John Lennon's tragic murder in the USA, The John Lennon Collection was a compilation of songs in memory of Lennon's amazing gifts. It was hugely successful in Britain and everywhere people loved Lennon music. And just a few months after Amy Winehouse's alcohol-related death in Britain in 2011, her posthumous album Lioness: Hidden Treasures was released. The album consisted of her demos and her previously unreleased songs.

There is a difference, however. Everyone on the planet knew John Lennon and Amy Winehouse. Who knew Szymon Borzestowski?


Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, This is indeed a sad story and a loss of young talent. But I'm not sure what the moral is--Szymon's depression was not unrecognized or untreated; indeed, it reached the point of specialists and hospitalization, so I'm not sure at that point what could have saved him. Possibly what was out of kilter in his brain also accounted for his unique musical vision.

Music fan said...

Remember when Janis Joplin died in her late 20s.... 1970 was a horrible time. Then Pearl was published and launched a year after her death. Thankfully the material was not lost.

Gena D said...

Ditto John Denver's plane crash. If his family didn't allow his old concerts to be publically released years later, his legacy would have been lost.

Hels said...


the most hopeful part was Szymon's attempts to keep on being creative, even as the mental illness descended towards suicide. And the saddest part was that he destroyed everything beautiful, filled with the destructive frustration that so many chronically depressed people suffer from.

Can we say he left a beautiful but minute legacy?

Hels said...

Music fan

Some people die far too young :( I remember exactly where I was when the news arrived that Janis Joplin had died. Imagine where fans would be, had The Pearl not been released posthumously. It was only her second solo studio album!

Hels said...


I was very family with Denver's music in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but not in 1997 when he died in that hideous crash. I imagine that when his previously unreleased music was published posthumously, it too must have sounded like music from beyond the grave.

jeronimus said...

He was an immensely talented and original song-writer. It's such a great loss. I heard his music on a Sydney non-profit radio station that has been featuring the songs his family released.

Hels said...


If there is a god in heaven, I don't understand why people die such hideous deaths. Not only did the family lose a beloved young son, but the community lost a potentially talented musician.

My parents both died in the last couple of months. Mum lived a wonderful, creative life and died a peaceful and dignified death. Dad also lived a very good life but died a hideous, tortured death where the doctor withdrew all food and drink.