Boris Sichon is the Fraser Valley percussion master – The Kingston Whig-Standard

With his incredible collection of unique instruments, musician Boris Sichon is endlessly entertaining.

Boris Sichon, a B.C.-based percussionist and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire, has a collection of over 400 unique instruments. Fania Sichon / jpg

What is that man doing with his stainless-steel baking dishes? Why, turning them into a set of tuned singing bowls of course.

Master percussionist and multi-instrumentalist Boris Sichon just might be able to perform on any available household item imaginable.

But that doesn’t take into account the incredible collection of unique instruments that the Ukrainian-born musician has assembled on his globe-trotting travels. From recognizable items such as agogo bells and an Indonesian cowbell to the twisted and ornately decorated Peruvian vagra puku (a kind of horn made of horns), Sichon has taken on playing some 400-plus different instruments in his collection. He’s constantly adding short-performance videos to view.

And his video series showcasing these performances — plus those occasional spontaneous cookware constructions — are an absolute delight to enjoy during these non-groovy times. Having studied with master musicians such as tabla master Ustad Alla Rakha, Sichon has exhibited his wares at ArtStarts in Schools and shares his knowledge in everything from drum circles for all levels and ages to school programs.

He contributes his skills to studio sessions and eSessions online, and his daughter, Rebecca, is a rising star of her own. He chatted with Postmedia News about how you go about learning to beat out a catchy rhythm on just about anything:

Postmedia News: How have you been handling the challenge of being home a lot?

Sichon: Honestly, I do work a lot with kids through ArtStarts, going all over B.C. to perform and do artist-in-residence programs. But that will sometimes mean that I’m home a few months at a time in-between. I have three children and love to have time to experiment and play, so this doesn’t seem too different to me.

Q: Your experimenting and playing is so delightful too. How did you assemble such a huge collection of such wonderful, and often weird, instruments?

A: I trained at the Academy of Music in St. Petersburg and worked in the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra. Then, I worked in the Russian National Folkloric Band for five years and visited many countries on five continents and started to collect instruments. When the Berlin Wall came down, there was a lot of exchange between musicians from the East and the West, and I went to France and joined the Footsbarn Travelling Theatre and kept travelling and collecting.

Q: So you were an actor as well as a musician?

A: We had members from many countries and did shows such as Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream where I was cast as Puck. Because my English was not so good, they created a speechless Russian puck, as they called it, and I only did it by body language, squeaking, screaming and so on. That show travelled to Australia where I learned how to play didgeridoo from Aborigine musicians, which was my first wind instrument. The journey continues always.

Q: So you learn and then you teach others about these instruments by playing them. Is it hard to decide which ones to bring to a performance?

A: I understand that what I have might be important to kids here, because it’s quite different from Europe where a lot of these instruments are more common. So I bring 25 different ones to each show and it’s kind of travelling around the world and showing how instruments all kind of speak the same language in a way, which is multicultural. I’m in Seventh Heaven when I get to play for kids and expose my instruments to them.

Q: With 400-plus instruments in your collection, how do you decide what to practise and when?

A: I’m doing this because for me it’s like breathing fresh air. It’s like prayer, and every practice becomes a passion. I love to approach one instrument using a technique from another and see what happens, like when I use a drum technique from one style but play it on an Irish bodhran or whatever. It’s like this wonderful ping-pong.

From African Music to Zoom Calls, Jimmy Buffett Lives Life on the Flip Side –

In a summer unlike any other in history, Jimmy Buffett is coming to the rescue with an charming and thoughtful new album called Life on the Flip Side. In the second half of our exclusive interview, the legendary entertainer explains how Zoom will impact future generations of performers, his longtime connection to frontline healthcare workers, and how a quote from Mark Twain changed the way he sees the world.

CMT: My favorite song on your new album might be “Who Gets to Live Like This.” I see you wrote that with Lukas Nelson and Mac McAnally.

Yeah, I knew Lukas as a kid because he and my daughter Savannah kind of grew up backstage at all the Willie Picnics years ago. He came up here to play a few years ago — I’m at my summer house in Sag Harbor — and he was just wonderful, as a player and as a songwriter. He’s got a lot of his dad in him, but he’s his own person too. I picked up on that immediately. And we just became best of friends.

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We ended up in Hawaii together, but on two different islands. We’d always talked about writing something. Mac McAnally and I started that song, and I sent Lukas a groove thing, from an old record that I really liked the groove on, so we collaborated and wrote it. We were texting and sending pages to each other from two islands apart in Hawaii!

That song has a great vibe, and so does “Live, Like It’s Your Last Day.” There’s a Caribbean feel to those, and an African music influence, too.

Yeah, I listen to a lot of African music. … That groove just sits there and the Aboriginals called those “songlines.” The groove was always there. They would go to walking groove — a fast-walking groove, or a slow-walking groove, in Africa, or in Aboriginal Australia. Then they would write a story to that groove, and they would know by a certain point of a story where they were going to be. And there would be a mention of that place in the lyrics. It’s a very cool way to write songs!

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You have that multicultural component in your band, and you definitely do on your records. Why is it so satisfying for you to have that global perspective in the music you make?

I came from a family of sailors and travelers. And as a child, everybody had been out there. There’s a Mark Twain quote about how travel is good for the soul, and it does away with bigotry and small-mindedness. He says if you see the world, and see other men, women, and things that excite you, it’s much better than living your life in one place.

It’s been one of my credos for a long time, and music was the same way. What was exciting to me was to pick up on the music that people were listening to, and the music that was part of the culture that you visited. It’s an amazing way to see countries, if you listen to the music when you’re visiting there.

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To me, the album’s final song “Book on the Shelf” expresses your gratitude to your fans, and to your band and crew. You’re sharing with us that you’re not done yet. I’m curious, what compels you to keep going and keep creating?

That there are always stories out there. Life changes — and we’re in one of the biggest curveballs now. I think one of the things about it is, there will be an end to this virus and these hard times, and things hopefully will get better. But in the meantime, the intimacy that was created by all performers and audiences having to be quarantined, I don’t think that’s ever happened in the history of the planet! People who love music couldn’t go hear it live! In the world!

That’s a big, big thing, because music soothes the savage beast, as they always say. It’s that little fabric of cohesiveness that can keep people from going crazy. These days it’s a very polarized world, so being able to share that music intimately, with somebody you like who’s playing it for 20 people on Zoom — I think that future artists will have to be good at that, in order to find an audience that will come see you live. I really believe that.

I’m sure those Zoom calls that you’ve done lately with medical workers are as uplifting for you as it is for them.

You know, we went to our Parrotheads because I’ve known for a long time that I have a lot of good friends and a lot of good fans who are in the healthcare business and first responders. And I know how much our music has meant to them before there ever was a pandemic. So when it came along, I went to that source to say, even with the strain and stress of what’s going on, there still has to be some fun in life.

I had read your quote that says, “There will be a time and place when we emerge from these troubled waters and things will change will change for the better.” I thought that was a beautiful way to phrase that. It’s encouraging.

Yeah, and I always say too, “When that is, where that is, it’s going to be a hell of a show!” (laughs)

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Where you do you get your sense of optimism and hope?

I’ve always been that way because I had to deal with a lot of failure and rejection! So you had to laugh at a lot of stuff. It wasn’t easy getting here. It wasn’t that way for everybody, you know? Television these days has made it look easier, on some of these shows, but it’s not. I always caution people that want to do this — you better be ready for rejection and be able to deal with failure. Those things are what make you strong enough to be successful.

The simple fact that I get to live where I live, and do what I do, and somehow I have the ability to take a look at the world and put it in songs that reflect on people — as I said in “Book on the Shelf,” these songs aren’t for me, they’re for you. And I really believe that.

Read the first half of our interview with Jimmy Buffett.