On Fragmenti, the first international release from Paris To Kyiv, the signature Ukrainian folk poetry, chants, prayers and song fragments merge with electric, acoustic and classical sounds. Neatly contrasting its title, it's likely the most cohesive of all works from Alexis Kochan and her collaborators.
Fragmenti sees Canadian-born singer and culture maker, Alexis Kochan evolving Ukrainian sounds into a universal sonic tapestry. With one foot firmly on Canadian soil and the other foot in Eastern Europe, Kochan's work has uncovered a place in between.
For the past 10 years Kochan has been re-birthing lost Ukrainian folk sounds with two musicians - Violist/guitarist/singer/songwriter and Fragmenti producer, Richard Moody and bandurist and sopilka player, Julian Kytasty. These bards from different cultural worlds give Paris To Kyiv its unusual and distinct flavour.
Also partnering on this new work is overtone singing artist, Alan Schroeder who throws his vocal shadows onto many of the pieces. These are enriched by percussionists Christian Dugas and Rodrigo Munoz - who also contributes his Spanish guitar talents and vocals - and fretless bassist Paul Yee.
Kochan describes the new recording more as a body of work than a collection of songs.
"It's conceptual," she says. "Of all my projects, this one feels most like a film score. The bells that open the recording and reoccur from time to time immediately pull the listener into a sound environment that is at the same time ancient and modern, sacred and secular; a sound that is mysterious, haunting, perhaps even eerie; a sound which is so full of imagery that it begs for illustration."
"Like the previous Paris To Kyiv recordings, (Fragmenti) is a tapestry made up of Ukrainian folk poetry and musical elements - bits and pieces of the leftovers from times past - woven together with new threads - a new interpretation by a chosen group of musical collaborators creating new work that is distinctively Ukrainian."
"It's bold, truthful and definitely 'music in the cracks'," says Kochan. "It invites revisits - with each new listen something new may be heard."
"For the first time in my work I feel that I've moved beyond the Ukrainian psyche to a universal one. All (songs) are comments on the human experience. (It's) cathartic, mantra-like, almost healing in nature. I'm not sure but perhaps it's meant to heal the Ukrainian people - or to heal me."
Anton Jozhik Lejba (Hedgehog)
Alexis Kochan was born and lives in Canada, but for already a lot of years she has been studying, creatively comprehending the musical culture of Ukrainians. The issue is, actually, authentic music, folk singing. Her first solo album was released in 1982, and afterwards the international project Paris to Kyiv was formed around Alexis. The album "Fragments" is the fourth one in discography of the project – and its first international release. What could I say – from the first minute you start regretting that the previous works by the group were not released in Ukraine... It is just extraordinarily beautiful music – deep, transparent, illuminating meditation of sound. In it, there harmoniously revolve round Ukrainian melodies and lyrics – the Asiatic guttural singing, Southern percussion, bells and electric guitars. Although the violin, and pan-pipe, and bandura also live here – but their sounding also, starting from the Ukrainian root, leads us either to Latin America, or to Central Europe. However, these trips and transitions are easy, and hints are almost conditional, that is why all mentions about any kind of geography also become conditional. There is a mainline, all the rest are petals, patterns, semi-real dreams... The music of "Fragments" is as though green noise of an unhurried life, in which the voice of water and the voice of light matter not less than singing of the wind, and the sound with which grass grows is the same as sounding of your smile, the flow of a quiet look... You listen – and understand: strange is this world, and its wonders are – joyous.
Gershwin's Summertime has Ukrainian roots -- 2007
On his CBC Radio One program, Randy Bachman played pop songs that were based on mostly classical pieces, and played portions of those classical pieces for comparison as well. His co-host brought up the fact that Randy Bachman was Ukrainian (from his mother and grand-mother), and they played Alexis Kochan's "Khodyt' son kolo vikon" to show how it was the basis for Gershwin's Summertime.
"Summertime" is the name of an aria composed by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. The lyrics are by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. A popular jazz standard, the song is in the minor mode. Gershwin is said to have based this song on a Ukrainian lullaby, Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon (A Dream Passes By The Windows), which he heard in a New York City performance by Oleksander Koshetz's Ukrainian National Chorus.
"Songlines" July/August 2006
Paris To Kyiv "Fragmenti"
****A CD you can judge by its cover****
The first thing that strikes you is the attention to detail. The beautiful packaging, artwork and sense of style...
The Paris To Kyiv project is a Canadian re-imagining of
Ukrainian folk music: although both singer Alexis Kochan and Julian Kytasty, third generation master of the bandura (the Ukrainian lute) can interpret authentic Ukrainian folk music wonderfully, this is not what they are doing here. Rather, with a space and beauty that recall the exacting production of an ECM recording, they reconstruct pre- Christian ritual and medieval song in a simply gorgeous interweaving of traditional instrumentation and subtle, incisive percussion.
Arranger Richard Moody's warm viola and velvety vocal
accompaniment is a perfect foil to Kochan's delicate high
alto voice and Kytasty's lightning fingers, and the band
excel in miniature instrumental landscapes like "Dream",
where against all probability Kytasty somehow makes
Gershwin's "Summertime" sound like it was written for the
In some ways this is reminiscent of Lhasa, Anouar Brahem or
Zakir Hussain; hearing them in a simple stone acoustic
environment such as a chapel must be fabulous.
- Jonathan Walton
REVIEW: Flavours - spring 2006
As “world music” becomes an ever less helpful catch-all for marketing teams, some artists draw from their roots to create a modern music true to their own world. Winnipeg-based Alexis Kochan’s ongoing Paris to Kyiv project draws deeply from Ukrainian earth and indigenous nstrumentation, abetted by Julian Kytasty’s bandura and the woodwind, sopilka, but she continues to draw from wider sources. Richard Moody enjoys an increasing role as violist, guitarist and singer, and there is more emphasis on percussion as well, but there is no distracting from Kochan’s clear and loverly voice – a searchlight through time’s mist.
- Randal McIlroy
REVIEW: Rootsworld Bulletin #331
This release is a departure from 2000's Prairie Nights and Peacock Feathers. While that work applied an experimental brushstroke to folk music, this one starts from a basis of experimentation.
Though Alexis Kochan and company use the same building blocks as in previous releases - voices, violins, bandura, bass, guitar, and soft percussion - the elements are used sparingly, in an almost devotional fashion. The deep bells interspersed between tracks and the slow, processional tempo of many of the pieces add to the sense of sacredness. Sparsely textured and delicately shaded, these contemplative pieces lay on the ear like soft silk. Alan Schroeder contributes overtone vocals on two tracks, furthering the meditative ambience. Bandura player Julian Kytasty's quote of Gershwin's "Summertime" is not at all out of place on "Dream,"
a gentle lullaby. They do kick it up a little on tracks such as "Oj U Lisi," a Spanish-tinged number with vocals by Rodrigo Munoz. Two sets of "Variations on a Three-Note Dance," one folky and one jazzy, show the possibilities inherent in minimal materials. "Trans-Siberian Blues," a bandura and guitar duet, uses plucky ostinatos and behind-the-bridge strumming in a gentle meeting of cultures. The release is aptly titled, as many of the tracks sound like fragments of musical ideas stitched together into a cohesive whole. It's evocative music that is not easily categorized, but will unfortunately probably be put in "new age" or "world fusion" bins. It's really neither, but rather stands on its own as a unique expression. Wherever it ends up, it's definitely worth seeking out.
- Peggy Latkovich
...the goal here is to capture the soul of Ukrainian folksong, interpret its essence and give it new life. These musicians aren’t copy~cats, and listeners unused to experimental or innovative music will need to cast aside their preconceptions before listening to this disc. Enthusiasts of current trends in “world music” will have no trouble warming up to this recording; and ditto for lovers of Ukrainian folksongs.
From start to finish, Fragmenti is a musical experience like no other and total immersion is the only real way to savor this disc. In essence although perhaps not intentionally, - this recording constitutes a powerful, beautifully crafted tribute to the Ukrainian lyrical folksong tradition and its overriding female dimensions: a rich sampling that underlines the plight of the woman in village society in a most eloquent way. These are haunting, poignant and often gut-wrenching songs nipped out of their Old Country setting and universalized. This is accomplished in many ways. Especially stunning, for example, is the ensemble’s interweaving of lyrics in three languages (Ukrainian, English and Spanish)...
This is possibly perhaps the most stylish Ukrainian compact disc ever produced...
According to one of the annotations printed in the booklet, “Time passes, the theme evolves, final sleep becomes a new consciousness and the journey continues”- a super metaphor for this latest CD from the Paris To Kyiv Ensemble.
- Robert B. Klymasz
…what struck me the most was the effect on the audience and atmosphere that was created in the hall. The effect of the music was such that one forgot about the rest of the audience and had a personal interaction with the musicians on the stage.
Paris To Kyiv like to reinvent themselves from disc to disc, from tour to tour... It is a great pleasure to experience this progression because Paris To Kyiv has never been predictable nor has it ever disappointed an audience. Paris To Kyiv’s music is a treasure.
- Nestor Gula, New Pathway 10-11-2005
The fifth disc from Alexis Kochan and Paris To Kyiv finds the world music group evolving yet again. Kochan often speaks of "Prairie voices" reinterpreting ancient melodies and lyrics, and a solid roster of contributors makes this beautifully packaged album a charming treasure. Julian Kytasty, Richard Moody, Paul Yee, Christian Dugas, Alan Schroeder and Rodrigo Munoz all join Kochan on this outing, each adding his own personality to the enchanting whole. This is haunting and soothing world music that will transport you to the steppes of the Ukraine, where lonely shepherds play the violin while watching their sheep. Paris To Kyiv has recently signed a distribution deal with Poland's Koka label, which is promising because more people need to hear this music.
- Mike Warkentin, Uptown Magazine 29-09-05