Jessica Fichot has a new album, an EP of 7 songs called Dear Shanghai, that celebrates her Chinese parentage and background. Her past 2 albums, Le Chemin (The Path) and Le Secret (The Secret), demonstrate her talent at French chanson-style and writing, complete with bal musette (think French cafe à la Robert Doisneau) accordion, gypsy swing, folk, pop, and other French popular styles. The new album, Dear Shanghai, brings us classics from Shanghai during the golden period 1920s-1940s. Jessica's mom was born in Shanghai, so there is a personal connection for her to celebrate her mom's hometown.
Jessica Fichot was born in America, went to school in Paris where she took a degree in record engineering, then came back to the US and took a degree in songwriting from the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston. In addition to her native French, she speaks and sings in both English, Spanish, and Mandarin. She plays piano, toy piano, and accordion. She uses acoustic instruments and oversees all recording and production, so the songs on her albums have a high level of coherence and sparkle. As an interesting side note, Jessica has also penned countless children's songs for musical theater and educational programs.
In 2007, Jessica performed live for KCRW after Le Chemin which you can watch here. I was totally struck by her musicianship and that of her musicians, plus her command of the music.
On this 2nd and recent KCRW visit, Jessica talked about some of the songs from Dear Shanghai that are featured in today's show. The first cut, "Ode to Spring", is from 1948 and was originally sung by Chen Juan Juan, known as the Shirley Temple of the East. The next cut, the title cut, "Dear Shanghai", is a Fichot original and is a love letter to Shanghai.
"Manli" was written by a famous songwriter, Wang Luobin, and is based on a folksong from Northwest China. The next cut we featured, "Wind And Rain Lullaby" (1947) was written by Chen Gexin, a prolific composer of what is called Shidaiqu, the Chinese folk/European jazz fusion prevalent in 1930s and 1940s Shanghai.
The final song, "Plum Blossom" is from 1957, and was originally sung by Li Xianglan, a famous singer of the era. The composers of this and many other famous songs had to flee to Hong Kong from Shanghai during the Cultural evolution.
Jessica Fichot is one super-talented and unique artist and I'm happy to help spread the word about her.
Rhythm Planet Playlist: 11/21/14