Paul's Universe

« We do not grow older; we simply grow… »

Six years have passed since the album Exodus was released. When the time came to record his new work, Paul Kunigis was inspired by this passage of time, by all the changes great and small in his life, his surroundings, his city, his country, and the world.  Much water has passed under the bridge, and Paul’s observations on the accelerating passage of time inspired these new compositions: moments of love, happiness, worry, grief, hope, change, and other moments of daily life.  The ten songs on 1 moment! suggest, in Kunigis’s inimitable way, that it is worthwhile  to take a moment—a simple moment.  It does not make time stand still, but it is good for the soul.

Paul Kunigis was born in Poland in 1953, the son of a much-decorated military man (one of the rare Jewish officers in the Polish army) and a Catholic mother. The political instability in Poland forced the family to move to Israel in 1956.

To help them preserve their Polish heritage, the children were sent to a French Catholic school in Jaffa. It was in this unique context that Paul Kunigis built his musical foundation: growing up in Israel, with a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, attending a French school in an Arab city!  It is no wonder that he was fascinated, intrigued, and curious to discover all the types of music that coexisted around him: a mix of East and West, Central Europe and Northern Africa, with country, blues, and jazz flavours too.  This extraordinary variety of cultures, traditions, religions, languages, and cuisine played an important part in his progress as a writer, composer, and pianist.

A resident of Canada since 1972, Kunigis settled on his passion in life, music, as a career. He did the rounds of the piano bars, where he performed in exchange for a meal and a few drinks.  Inspired by all the musical influences that had shaped him, he formed the group Jeszcze Raz, whose name means “One more time” and is pronounced “yes chay razz,” and in 1997, the album Pamietam (“I remember”) was released.  It received excellent reviews, and world music fans received it warmly.  The group performed in ever larger venues and were one of the hottest acts in town.

For their next album, Paul hired producer Yves Desrosiers, who had worked with Jean Leloup, Lhasa, Sarah M. and many others, and who suggested they sign on with record label Audiogram. Balagane, which means “Chaos” in both Polish and Hebrew, was released in 2002.  With its blend of Polish, Hebrew, Arab, and French musics, it too received great reviews and won the Juno for Best World Music Album in 2003.

Jeszcze Raz performed all over Quebec, as well as in Toronto, Vancouver, Moncton, Warsaw, and Krakow, and at many international festivals. They were also often called upon to perform for radio and TV specials, and had concerts broadcast live on Radio Canada and Radio Krakow. The song Czarna Kawa (“Black Coffee”) appeared on the American World Rhythms Review Album compilation, and Shequette (“Silence”) was voted the best song on the Polish Minimax First Compilation.

In 2003, Paul composed the music for Stella Goulet’s film La pension des étranges. The following year, the album 2 univers was released, containing a reworked version of the film score as well as remixed and remastered songs from the album Pamietam.

In 2005, Paul was invited by Canada’s world champion figure skaters to compose music for their routine at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. He was also awarded the Silver Cross of Merit by the Polish government.

In autumn of 2005, Paul went back to the studio to record a new album produced by “sound chemist” Carl Bastien, who had worked with Daniel Bélanger, Ariane Moffatt, and Dumas. At this point he felt the urge to create under his own name, and with the blessing of his musicians and Audiogram, the Jeszcze Raz chapter was closed. Exodus was released in May 2006, and once again the critics applauded the writer/composer/performer: “Jeszcze Raz is dead, long live Paul Kunigis!” wrote Ralph Boncy in the newspaper Voir. The album was nominated for a Félix award in the category World Music Album of the Year. Paul Kunigis then embarked on an extensive tour of Québec with his band as well as continuing to do the solo shows so beloved by his many fans.

In 2007, Paul performed for over 20,000 delirious fans on the main stage of the Montréal International Jazz Festival.  Later that year, for variety, he composed music for a children’s puppet show.

2008 saw the birth of a unique multimedia show called Instantané that brought together authors, composers, performers, directors, and all types of musicians.  The show was exclusively presented at the Francofolies de Montréal. He was surrounded on stage by such luminaries as Yves Lambert (La Bottine souriante, Le Bébert Orchestra), Carl Bastien (director and leader of The Stone County Players), Vander (Les Colocs, Bass ma Boom Sound System), Bruno Rouyère (leader of Malade Mantra), François Lalonde (producer and colleague of Lhasa and Jean Leloup), José Major (Jérôme Minière), Caroline Meunier (accordionist with Jeszcze Raz) et Tommy (violonist with the Bébert Orchestra). The show was a great reflection of Montréal’s musical diversity.

He composed and produced music to accompany the children’s book Wapiti, released by La montagne secrete in May 2009. This much-heralded musical alphabet included texts by renowned children’s author Christiane Duchesne. In Spring 2012, the English version W is for Wapiti was released, translated, adapted and produced by Paul.

Paul is currently working on a musical show created by and for children entitled Ma ruelle c’est la plus belle, with lyrics by Christiane Duchesne and screenplay (?) by Véronique Marcotte. This unique project will see the light of day in autumn of 2013.

In 2012, Paul Kunigis was happy to join Avalanche, his new record label, which will release 1 moment!. This album also features François Lalonde, a longtime colleague with whom he recorded Balagane and to whom he entrusted the production of the new album. Supported by his loyal colleagues Jean-Denis Levasseur and Carmen Piculeata of Jeszcze Raz, Paul also welcomes new collaborators such as Stéphane Tellier and Jacques Kuba-Séguin (Radio-Canada’s “Jazz Revelation” of 2012). The album 1 moment! will be released in February of 2013.

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