Paris to Kyiv Explores Cultural Worlds in European Tour

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After more than 20 years of bringing her skillful and intriguing explorations into the world of traditional Slavic music, Winnipeg’s Alexis Kochan and her ensemble, Paris to Kyiv, are now bringing the sounds of ancient Ukraine to... Ukraine?

That’s right. For the first time since launching the Paris to Kyiv project in 1993, Kochan is taking it straight to the source, embarking on a three-week trip to Europe in May. While she did a preliminary foray into Eastern Europe during a trip to Poland in 2001, the upcoming tour - which will see the ensemble travel to Belgrade, Warsaw, and Kyiv, among other cities - will be the first time that Kochan has set a determined musical foot in her music’s homeland.

“What happened in Ukraine is with the new independence, the post-Soviet thing, American influence is huge there. Mainstream rock and pop is huge. What happens because of those influences is that with something stronger and more powerful taking over, cultural elements are being lost,” Kochan says of the necessity of preserving traditional art forms. “It takes someone going back in and saying, ‘you have a beautiful culture here.’”

And Kochan is preparing to explore the beauty of traditional Ukranian music with everything she’s got. While Kochan made the 2001 Poland trip with bandurist Julian Kytasty and violinist Richard Moody in tow, this time she’s bringing the full ensemble, which also includes mandolinist and piper Martin Colledge, bassist Nenad Zdjelar, and percussionist John Wyre.

“Paris to Kyiv has been continuously evolving since I first began the project in 1993,” Kochan says. “I have a Ukranian background, and my interest is like an archaeologist… I like to find fragments of ancient songs and rhythms and turn them into art. I invite interesting musicians who come from different cultural worlds to play with me.”

The ensemble’s trip was facilitated by the efforts of Kochan’s own budding record label, Olesia Records, and by the support of a number of arts grants and initiatives. Trade Routes, a not-for-profit group that aims to support the work of artists preserving and exporting cultural heritage, helped her fund the label.

“I’ve had great supporters and wonderful grants,” Kochan says. “It looks like there’s real interest by the government in what I’m doing.”

Please visit Paris to Kyiv for more information.

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