FUSION: engine of jazz and hip hop in Kyiv. We have talked to the community’s crew

Maksym Komlev

On July 25th, another party by the art community FUSION was held in a bar Khvyliovyi in Kyiv. There was a sad reason – on June 30th the founder of the project, musician Sasha Pinchuk tragically died.

Throughout two years FUSION grew from music evenings just for fun to a community that hosts lectures, cinematic events, and their jams transform jazz and make it stylish again.

Also, jams are events where musicians meet, create bands, and release albums. Hyphen Dash was formed here, and rapper Viacheslav Dropha (OTOY) met here with Yegor Gavrylenko (The Lazy Jesus) and they recorded one of the most interesting mini-albums in Ukraine in 2021.

We have talked to the community’s crew and will tell you its brief but rich history.

As the story goes, FUSION was made because of the need in the community. Sasha Pinchuk got into jazz, was learning to play it, and training with mentors. At one moment he wanted to show what he can do. Then he understood there was no youth in Kyiv jazz, and decided to create a place where it can show itself.

Akim Karpach, FUSION’s co-creator and photographer:
“Sasha wanted to develop music culture in our country and always told us that we have pop, and techno, but where are new jazz and hip hop? Where are those who study as musicians, why we can’t listen to them, and why they are unknown to all? But wanting to develop music was not enough, you need to develop. And he did that.”

The first party (but not under the name FUSION at the time) was made on March 3rd, 2019 in a serigraphy studio. Like this year, everything was made by themselves and with their funding, returned by donation. Sasha wrote to familiar musicians, found the location, and gathered people that wanted to help with the organization. It was tight but everyone liked it.

Diana Jabbar, jazz saxophonist, and organizer of first jams:
“We didn’t know how it’s done and acted intuitively, have not distributed tasks and everyone helped as they could. Many people argued and it was tough to find a location but as Sasha was a person who knew all around here, we agreed upon the studio.
Despite the packing inside, inch to inch, and with active workbenches alongside, the atmosphere was cool, many people came. We played, sang, partied, it was cozy and fun. It was a very relaxed space for the musicians, with no fear at all. I remember, everyone was very excited and asked if more jams will be. We didn’t know then where it will come to.”

There were people out of the visitors of the first party that became part of FUSION in the future. Akim Karpach remembers how the feeling of freedom and the birth of something new motivated all to join the rave:

“It didn’t look like performances, gigs, there was just a kind of synergy. It’s tough to describe it but you needed to be there. And no matter if you’re a musician or a visitor. You still needed to take part in this.
As a visitor, I managed to feel this wild energy that was exchanged amongst musicians and between musicians and the audience. I think it was because of the improvisation or, as Sasha liked to say, ‘creating art in real time’.”

Photo: Margarita Kornienko

This evening established the basis of FUSION – since then jams are held by strict rules: musicians send their applications, organizers choose who will play. Among the criteria – to know and love genres, made out of jazz, to read chord progressions and to have the stage experience.

At the party, names are picked deliberately, and thus the squad forms. Usually, these are keyboard, bass, drums, saxophone and vocals. Improvised bands play 10 minutes each as music is born in real-time.

Alongside instrumentalists, jams are also visited by rappers. Viacheslav Dropha (OTOY) remembers that meeting with the project helped him to see his music differently:

“I came to FUSION for the first time during the filming of the Bayduzhe project. We weren’t familiar with each other then, I was with Dima Koloah at the studio at Nyzhnyoyurkivska. We were attracted by the party on the street and instead of filming, we went to fuse in music streams.
And then Yegor Gavrylenko (The Lazy Jesus) asked us to play with the New Brain Trio where we met Misha Birchenko (Hyphen Dash) and others. I was shocked by the people around me and the vibe here. Since then I’m a fan of FUSION.
The project gave me an understanding of the music part of my art. My music evolves into something unusual, written by western canons. Now it’s something close, musical, not just recitative. FUSION played a big part in it.”

Musicians that take part in jams say that FUSION gave them a feeling – they are valuable.

Andrii Barmaley, the saxophonist of Sasha Chemerov, Alina Pash, Stas Koroliov and others:
“Sasha started the huge wave. Because of him many musicians and not only musicians met, befriended and worked with each other.
At FUSION many people felt as artists, that they are important, they found their original audience, a place of many associates and coziness. Sasha compiled many parts into one.”

For two years FUSION held 13 jams in Kyiv – from ШOOM studio and 20ft Radio to the Ukrainian house, Khvyliovyi and Kurazh bars. By uniting young musicians organizers give an impulse to Ukrainian jazz and hip hop culture.

“We want for people to stop aligning jazz with the 30s and 40s in XX century, smokings and Let My People Go by Louis Armstrong. The genre was changed since then, our project is a bright example of it.

FUSION is about perceiving jazz by the new generation of musicians. They are free of genre frames and standards while combining styles and forms and rethinking the definition of “jazz”. Our project is the colliding of new wave musicians and visitors that are interested in discovering this world,” Sasha Pinchuk.

At the party in memory of Sasha, FUSION has diverted from its rules for the first time – instead of a classical jam, musicians, with whom Sasha performed, played his music and the music of artists that inspired him. Guests had an opportunity to donate money for ideas that Sasha wasn’t able to realize in his lifetime, including the recording and releasing songs of young musicians.

One of the heroes of the evening was a Hyphen Dash band that was formed at FUSION jams. Since then, the trio has experienced playing with Sasha Chemerov, participating in the project ZMOVA, and now, two musicians are the constant members of the live band of Nadia Dorofeeva.

isha Birchenko, FUSION’s organizer and Hyphen Dash’s drummer:
“I was stunned by the number of people that evening and the fact that it resonated with many as they understood the importance of what happened, they wanted to take part in this memorial evening, to listen to music, that Sasha played and was inspired by, played by musicians from Kyiv.”

The FUSION’s team assures that it will continue to exist and grow, search for new formats and to develop jazz, around-jazz and hip hop culture in Ukraine.

“Everything that happened recently gave us more motivation to move forward, and the price of what we’ve done and what we do doubled. Sasha became an impulse for many musicians and a motivator for continuing to do your favorite job – to play, express yourself, and develop. And we don’t plan to stop,” say Oleksandra Kuvshynova and Akim Karpach, FUSION’s organizers.

Photo: Akim Karpach
Translator: Yurii Lishchuk

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