|Paul Kunigis & Jeszcze Raz|
If it's true that life begins at 40, then Paul Kunigis is living proof.The Montreal based pianist is the leader singer/songwriter of Jeszcze Raz, a band he formed in Montreal in 1995. A charismatic leader, Kunigis writes and performs in four languages -- Hebrew, Arabic, Polish, and French - and numerous musical styles, such as klezmer, blues, and jazz. Perhaps the reason Kunigis crosses so many musical boundaries, is because he himself is the result of different Worlds colliding. Born in Poland to a Jewish father and Catholic mother, Kunigis was raised in Israel, where he attended a French school amongst the Arab population. He later immigrated to Canada, where he worked in the airline industry in Toronto, before moving to Montreal. It was there that he decided on a mid-life career change. It was a move that paid off. Jeszcze Raz's first album, Pamietam (Never Forget) received critical accolades and established Jeszcze Raz on the Montreal World Music scene, but it was 2002's Balagane (Bordello) which demonstrated the full calibre of these musicians, as well as Kunigis as a songwriter. Balagane is full of wit and wistfulness. The title track is a powerful commentary on the Middle East, sung woefully in Hebrew, while other songs such as "Alte Zachen" ("Old Rags") are upbeat and whimsical. "Yahayouni" is a love song sung in Arabic. The Polish "Czarna Kawa" ("Black Coffee") discusses extreme frustration at political discussions. In March of 2003, Jeszcze Raz won the 2002 Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammies) for World Music Album of the Year. I spoke with Paul Kunigis over the phone from his home in Montreal. His perfect English was slightly accented with his Israeli and Eastern European background, and his enthusiasm for the direction his music is taking him never dwindled.
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