Archive for the ‘Ukrainian-Canadian’ Category

New Website

June 7, 2011

Hello all!

Many thanks for all your support over the last year as I travel, work and write. It’s come time, however, to change things up a little. As a result, I’ve launched a new website:

www.stevensirski.com

I am still trying to figure out how to post pictures, but I hope to have that done shortly. I’ve tried to clean things up a little for easier navigation. Please let me know if I’ve been successful or if something needs to be changed.

If you have any suggestions, please contact me at stevensirski [at] gmail [dot] com. I’d be more than happy to talk/chat/email with you.

As for this site, I will keep it active for now, but will stop updating it shortly.

Many thanks for your continued support,

Steve

Winnipeg Music

January 26, 2011
Postered Telephone Pole

Winnipeg band posters on a telephone pole.

Since I’ve started a new journey towards my heritage homeland of Ukraine, I’ve stopped in Poland for the mean time. While here, I’ve had the chance to find some interesting music both from the store and also from those I’ve met in hostels. One Finnish dude gave me a list of 7 or 8 metal bands, while another Polish dude gave me some 15 Polish bands to listen to. In return, I supplied some music from my city and nation.

In this post, I’ll cover the musicians that I’ve been sharing abroad. Further, if I were to run my OWN hostel, these are the artists that I’d want in my music library open to the public. You’ll find rock and metal, folk rock, ethnic, funk, electronica, jazz, and even something for the kids. Be forewarned, some of these bands are no longer together so you may have to ask around for their discs.

Rock and Metal

The Guess Who

There’s an interesting history behind this band and its members. I’ll leave you to Wikipedia it. In any event, The Guess Who website takes you to the current line up of The Guess Who, but former members Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings have continued their careers through other musical ventures. Radio-friendly, classic rock, easy-on-the-ears and catchy melodies are the drive behind this tried-and-true Winnipeg rock group. A “best of” collection would probably sufficiently represent this band’s repetoire. Remember when Lenny Kravitz did “American Woman”? Yea, that was written by The Guess Who. How about “These Eyes”? Again, The Guess Who. But that catchy drum beat to “Takin Care of Business?” That’s Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Now that you know, stop guessing. 😛

The Watchmen

Though they claim to be on a “reunion tour,” a look through their past tour dates suggests that they haven’t really ever taken time off. Sure, they’ve taken some time to release albums, but isn’t that reminiscent of Metallica’s early days, releasing an album every 3 years? A local favourite, they started out way back in 1992 and are still releasing albums. They recently had a documentary done about them titled All Around Us. Some of the more popular albums include Silent Radar and Slow Motion, the last one being a combination of a studio album and a “best of” compilation. They’ve gone in two directions, both rock and electronic, I prefer the first type.

 

Trousermouth from Winnipeg.

Trousermouth

Winnipeg’s Gwar, Sex Pistols or Rancid, hopefully you get the idea. Though not every show is a complete mess (physically), if they play the Albert, you can be sure that the band will bring the toilet paper for the women’s washroom… and soak it in beer before throwing it across the room. These guys have been around forever and probably will stay that way, or until someone thinks it’s not funny any more… which probably won’t happen. Hard to recommend a song, but good party music, ESPECIALLY if you’re not English. Listen to them here on CBC Radio 3. And if I’m correct, I think I contributed video to their DVD, available in their store.

Ciaira’s tears

My first rock band, because who wouldn’t promote a noble effort of being in a rock band that played the Royal Albert? Listen to them here.

Bif Naked

Full of attitude and tattoos, Bif found her bearings in Winnipeg before venturing out into the big wide world. I’m partial to her later stuff, such as “I love Myself Today”. I love the attitude she brings to the table.

 

Serrated Scalpel

If there were to exist a “Study Book of Winnipeg Metal”, the following three bands would be in it. Serrated Scalpel were as heavy as the name suggests. Unfortunately, the band’s website states that they are on a hiatus. Hard, heavy, unrepenting metal, English-learning might be at a minimum with this band, but the music lessons will be top notch. You can find them listed on the Encyclopedia Metallum.

Immortal Possession and Boldface Industry

Again, these two bands are no longer around, but I want to mention them anyway. Immortal Possession is unrepenting death metal in a similar vain to Serrated Scalpel, while Boldface Industry is more heavy metal/industrial. Drummer Rob Shallcross has since gone on to play and record with several different acts, many of them non-metal related. I single him out because he inspired me to play “blast beats”, extremely fast 16th notes played on the snare drum with one hand, while pounding out 16th notes on the double kick pedal. Amazing. Inspiring.

Electro Quarterstaff

I would share this band only with math and music geeks since hardly anyone outside that area in the greater world (and not on North American soil) would readily comprehend. That being the case, EQ derives inspiration from a slew of musical genres which ultimately show up in their final compositions. I remember talking to one of the guitar players and hearing him describe the work they put into their comps had me questioning if he did anything else in his life. I recall him saying that he liked music that could be reproduced both on stage and in the studio, time and again. If you don’t believe, see them live.

The Weakerthans

Again, never really got into them but they’ve been around forever that, if I were not to include them, the list would be incomplete. These boys have a good sense of humour, especially about Winnipeg, writing about it in “One Great City”. YouTube hosts a few videos of the song, just as funny when the audience joins in for the chorus.

Folk/rock

Kayla Luky

Just finished recording her fourth album, this 21-year old from Grandview, Manitoba strikes a chord with me. I picked up a copy of her last album, The Story of My Life, and found it to be as depressing as country-folk is supposed to be. Revel in that depression, because the music’s damn fine. My personal favourite is Merry Go Round. She recently re-did her website too.

Voldis and the Melodicas

I will assume that any foreigners coming to Winnipeg have heard of the Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino. Well, think of the soundtrack to Resevoir Dogs, Voldis and the Melodicas would fit the bill. The grooves and compositions these guys come up with put them in a league above other acoustic rock bands. Apparently the band is actually made up of two other bands, but that don’t matter since the fusion works fine. Good travel music right here and good for learning some slang English as well. Unfortunately, they had sold out their first album and were printing more before I left for Poland.

Ethnic

Madrigaia

An absolutely phenomenal, all-female acapella group that sings traditional folk songs from around the world, including Canada. I heard this group at the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, and they had me hooked. I still listen to both albums for percussion inspiration. You can still find their work on MySpace.

Taran

My first venture into Ukrainian polka music. Released one demo and one full length. You can still find the full length. If not, I’ll get you a copy.

Zrada

Another one of my efforts as a drummer in Winnipeg. To see them live is an experience.

Bafana/Jay Stoller

A tribal percussion group in Winnipeg, the coldest city in the world? Yes, it’s true. Fronted by Jay Stoller, who also runs a djembe school in Winnipeg, this percussion ensemble plays both traditional African rhythms and some of their own creations. As far as I know they only have one disc out, but they do play at the annual Folklorama in August.

Fubuki Daiko

A pounding display of Japanese percussion. The core group I think is 4 or 5 people, but they run a school and swap students in and out of performances as they need. They have toured across the world and have released a few albums, but seeing them live is pretty neat because the drums really do reverberate in your chest.

Sonic Flow

I’m not sure how old this band is, and I couldn’t get their “official” website to work, but I recently picked up a copy of their CD. Combining the sounds of the didjeridoo, the washbucket bass (which you can also see in my movie, The Five Muses), table and the guitar, this band has an utterly incredible fusion of sound.

Hoosli from Winnipeg, Canada.

Hoosli

Hoosli is my favourite Ukrainian men’s choir. Yes, the music is often religious or based on old folk tunes, but hearing this choir perform live is truly a marvelous experience. I like their Christmas album, although all of their albums are pretty damn solid. I’ve always thought their singing would be great for a movie soundtrack. Maybe one day folks, maybe one day.

Funk

Moses Mayes

The masters of funk, Moses Mayes. These guys have been around for quite a while and have relased a few albums. Apparently they’ve just re-started, but you can still find their discs in some of the local music stores.

JFK & The Conspirators

A mixture of raggae and funk, these guys are easy listening, I bet they could find a market in Korea if they wanted it. I have their one disc, Mash Up the Dance. Not sure if they’re still playing out, but you can have a listen on CBC Radio 3.

Electronica

 

Vav Jungle of Winnipeg.

Vav Jungle

A hairstylist and an electronic artist, Eve Rice makes a parade as Vav Jungle, an electronic music act both eclectic and catchy. I picked up her Pap Rock album and thought it was awesome.

Jazz

Ron Paley Big Band

I prefer his acoustic big band work over his electric work, but this man has been around since the Winnipeg stone age. For me, the acoustic jazz has more of what I associate with the “big band” sound, but you can tell he’s pushing boundaries with his electric work. You can listen to his discography here.

Steve Kirby

And if you ever get a chance to see bassist Steve Kirby, do it. Originally from New York, he came to Winnipeg to set up a better jazz program at the University of Manitoba. He doesn’t play in any one band, but he has released one disc, Wicked Grin. Your best bet to catch him is at Winnipeg’s Jazz Festival.

And for the kids…

Fred Penner

Probably the most accessible and appropriate man to learn English from, he’s a children’s entertainer. But don’t let that deter you. Since this man is a must in a child’s development, Fred Penner has gathered legions of fans young and old. My favourites include Otto the Hippo (about a hippo who goes to the big city to be a rockstar) and Ghost Riders in the Sky, Mr. Penner also recorded one of my favourite Christmas albums.

And there are many more.

I think almost every city can lay claim that they “have the best local music scene.” Well no shit, cause the kids who got nothing to lose but everything to gain can try anything, the bigs can’t. And then there are other bands such as Jet Set Satellite, The Perms, The Barrymores, Kenmode, the Vagiants, Jerkwater, the list can go on. Best thing to do is pop into the local music store (such as Music Trader in Osborne Village or Into the Music in the Exchange) and ask the desk guys. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, just walk into one of the live music venues in Winnipeg.

If you think that Winnipeg is all ice, snow, and depression, you’re wrong. A vibrant music scene keeps this city rolling all year long.

Zrada Music Video: Black Sea Mania

December 3, 2010

Zrada logo.

Some folks will remember when the band originally posted this video. It was when we recorded the first Zrada album, Return of the Wagon, way back in 2006 (and now out of print). Recorded in one weekend, we rented the same camera that got busted during the Taran music video shoot. This song still stands as one of my favourite recordings.

Taking a cue from A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, we assembled some footage from the recording session and put it together. You can watch the final product on Vimeo. Enjoy.

On Being Ukrainian

October 26, 2010

My recent travels through Asia have made me more aware of my heritage, both its traditions and language. But my Ukrainian cultural identity crisis all started with a Polish girl, was challenged by family and friends here in Canada, and then finally challenged by an old man in a Tim Horton’s in Yorkton, Saskatchewan.

Last week I attended a Ukrainian dance concert put on by the phenomenal Virsky Dance Ensemble. Imported from Ukraine, these folks show the rest of the world how Ukrainian dancing is done. But, it wasn’t the concert that got me fired up to write this article. No no no! It was standing in line at the Tim Horton’s with a cute blond girl beside me, when an old man decided to make friends with us. Eventually the conversation turned to our parentage: we were both Ukrainian but neither of us (the younger generation) knew or understood a word of Ukrainian. And that seemed to prove a point with the old man.

So, this article was finalized by the fury that old man created within me. He left me to wonder, I’m second generation Ukrainian on my Dad’s side and third generation on my Mom’s side, why should I know Ukrainian? English has done me very well, and some countries will pay me quite handsomely to teach it to their children. But the exchange left me wondering…

Am I Ukrainian?

My friends would tell me no. The beautiful Polish girl I met while travelling would tell me no. And probably most Ukrainians in Ukraine would look at me as if I was crazy. One of my friends pointed out that if I were to be imprisoned, which nationality would I choose: Canadian or Ukrainian? Point blank I told him Canadian, no doubt about it. At the very least the Canadian government would be able to give me a phone call, whereas the Ukrainian government could not do a thing.

I recall when I first arrived in South Korea for teacher training. One of the things they talked about was relationships with Koreans. Relationships were bound to happen, so why not address the issues that may come up? One of the issues was about nationality and culture, the point was very clear: just because you marry Korean woman, speak Korean damn near perfectly, you’re still not Korean. Most noticeable is your skin colour: white folks aren’t yellow (or slightly brown, however you want to classify them Koreans).

So, as a simple matter of fact, I’m not Ukrainian. I am Canadian.

But, if I’m Canadian, then what do I do about this Ukrainian heritage? Drinking vodka, eating perogies, and going to Church won’t make me any more Ukrainian than saying the words. How about knowing the words to the Ukrainian national anthem? What about knowledge of Ukrainian folk songs, or the stories of Taras Bulba or poems written by Taras Shevchenko? None of those make me any more Ukrainian.

Two of the bands I played in were Ukrainian, but no one could claim that they were truly Ukrainian (well, maybe one). Yet the songs were in Ukrainian, we wore Ukrainian shirts, we marketed ourselves as a Ukrainian band. One band still trudges on, singing in Ukrainian but very far from what most people would consider “Ukrainian music”.

What to make of this?

I’m a fan of history. I took two degrees in it and heard no end to the comment “what are you going to do for money when you’re out of school?” For all intents and purposes, history, like art, is useless (thank you Mr. Warhol). There’s no noticeable practical value to studying history. I understand this. I accept it. But, then what of my Ukrainian heritage? The polka band I played in combined both aspects: history and art!

However, someone told me a very important thing to remember and it’s left an indelible mark on my mind: the best way to preserve your culture is to learn your language. But not just learn it, speak it. Even though it will serve no practical purpose (and Ukrainian certainly won’t, but Chinese or Spanish might), it maintains a link to the past.

And the only way to keep that language alive is ensure it has stories to tell. (I’d like to note that if Ukrainian were to disappear, there wouldn’t be much of a dent in the working world. Whereas if Latin were to disappear, you’d have a lot of lawyers and doctors trying to figure out how to read some parts of the law or how to label the body.) Does it matter if a rock group decides to write its lyrics in Ukrainian? Well, even if you are thinking traditionally you’d have to admit that “at least they’re speaking Ukrainian.” Speaking the language is preserving the culture itself.

All this ends with the question, how do I identify myself? Who am I?

I am Canadian.

I have Ukrainian heritage and I would like to preserve the link to my cultural and ancestral past because that history amazes me. But that’s an historical interest, not practical knowledge.

For those of you who didn’t believe that I played in a polka band

August 11, 2010

I’m sure my former bandmates will kill me for posting these. Taran, my Ukrainian polka band, playing at the WECC in Winnipeg, Canada. Watch how the douchebag camera guy tries to do something fancy with the camera and ends up breaking it. Most expensive shot of the evening, folks.

Kolomeyka Part 1:

Part 2:

And Nalyvaimo Bratya:

http://www.youtube.com/user/TaranMusic#p/a/u/2/CepkRm2gkLs


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