Jessica Fichot brings Chinese-French fusion to Tahoe
September 7, 2018
The entrancing sounds of Jessica Fichot and her band will echo along the shoreline of Sand Harbor this weekend as part of The World Concert: A Peace Project of Truckee Tahoe.
With a sound blending cultures and spanning eras, Fichot and her band return to Tahoe this weekend, bringing their fusion of French, Chinese, jazz and folk music.
"There's a unity in the style of music," said Fichot. "I think there's something that unifies folk music, even when I sing in a lot of languages it works together."
Accompanied by three members playing upright bass, clarinet and guitar, Fichot's unique brand of music is a doorway into her own experiences growing up around Paris, blending both French and Chinese culture with a strong mindset of not adhering to norms.
Born in upstate New York to a Chinese mother and French father, Fichot, who plays accordion and toy piano, was raised from age three to 20 in and around Paris. Growing up in the 1990s, she gravitated toward American music, preferring the likes of Tori Amos to French music.
"My experience growing up in France was, surprisingly, listening to all American music," she said. "There was a lot of French music that I heard, but I was kind of ignoring it. For me it was exotic and cool to be singing in English.
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"It makes me a little bit sad to think about it now, but there was a trend when I was growing up that French music was considered uncool, like that's our parents' music."
At the age of 20 Fichot moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of her lifelong goal of becoming a musician. And amid the music she'd loved as a child, Fichot began to long for the songs she'd mostly ignored as a child.
"After I moved to L.A. I rediscovered French music," she said. "There was something suddenly that became intriguing for me to be singing in a language that I kind of ignored musically as a kid, and also because I was suddenly surrounded by people that spoke English and it wasn't exotic anymore for me to be doing what everyone else is."
She'd later release her first album, "Le Chemin" in 2007, garnering positive reviews from critics in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Her desire to learn more about the music and culture of her mother's side of the family, would then take her on a trip across the globe to China.
LINK TO HISTORY, HERITAGE
Fichot's mother and grandparents fled Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution, and nearly a half century later, she'd visit the land her family had run from, becoming fixated on a brand of Chinese music called Shanghai jazz. The style of music was popular in the 1930s and 40s and blended elements of European jazz with Chinese pentatonic scales and singing.
The trips to China ultimately inspired Fichot's latest effort, "Dear Shanghai," a work entirely in Mandarin Chinese and made up of mostly 1940s Shanghai jazz.
"The reason I chose to record an album of that music is because there's something I felt linked to my own French music, and also my own heritage because my mom is from Shanghai," said Fichot. "It's an interesting style of music and it's all linked to the history of China."
Whether in French, English, Chinese or Spanish, the same.
"It's about the vibe and the feel, rather than the content of what the song says. It's also about the beauty of the language itself," she said.
"They're songs from the heart and that feel personal in a way that's universal. Despite the fact that it's a lot of foreign languages, I think the music is really accessible."
Fichot will perform this Saturday at Sand Harbor State Park. Tickets for the World Concert, which includes a full night of music and entertainment, are at TrailsandVistas.org.
Aside from performing, Fichot creates music for independent video games, and also provides music for the app Novel Effect, which adds sound effects to children's bedtime stories.
"As you're reading it, music is triggered by the app," said Fichot. "It's about creating music that's interactive, meaning it has to work whether you read the story fast or slow, and should transition in a way that feels natural. It creates a soundscape for the book."
For more information or the listen to Fichot's music, visit JessicaSongs.com.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.