The traditional music of Eastern Europe has been given a modern sensibility by Belgium-based band, Panta Rhei. While their repertoire is culled from a variety of countries and cultures, the group's orchestrations and virtuosic musicianship provide a bridge of cohesiveness. According to French magazine L'Express, "From Rumanian to traditional Flemish songs, from Polish folk music to English jigs, from the French Valse Chinois to Swedish melancholy, Panta Rhei proves with complete logic that good music knows neither period nor frontier." The Paradoxe newsletter of December, 1995, praised the band for "providing us with the most original and also the most daring musical exploits of these last several years."
The inspiration for Panta Rhei was jointly conceived by jazz flute and saxophone player Steve Houben and traditional folk violin and bagpipe player Luc Pilartz. Bringing together musicians from different cultures and musical backgrounds, Houben and Pilartz formed Panta Rhei in 1993. The group took its name from Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus' slogan, "panta rhei kai ouden menei" (all things are in a state of flux and nothing is permanent).
After a month of rehearsals in November 1993, Panta Rhei recorded a demo tape and began to perform throughout Europe. Their debut album Hopa!, released in February 1995, was included on lists of the year's ten best albums compiled by Flemish magazine Gandalf and Dutch magazine Newfolksounds. In a review of the album, Folk Roots wrote, "At one moment you feel you are at a Romanian village wedding, the next listening to a chamber music concert, the next at an exhilarating Irish session and so on; yet the album has a wonderful sense of rightness and flow."
A mini-CD, Tiganeasca - Julia Delaney's, followed in January 1996. The group's albums were reissued internationally by the French record label Buda Musique in October 1996. Panta Rhei's third cd, Passchendale Suite, released in November 1996, was recorded with British a capella trio Coope, Boyes & Simpson at the peace concert in Passchendale in September 1995.
In addition to Houben and Pilartz, Panta Rhei features violinist Aurelle Dorzee, violoncellist Kathy Adams, diatonic accordionist Didier Laloy, guitarist Pascal Chardome, double bassist Jo Vanhouette, and percussionist/vibraphonist Stephan Pougin.