Turning up the tunes can help to sooth the noise in your head. In uncertain times, we often turn to artists for comfort...especially musicians. Whether it's their sound or lyrics, musicians have a magical way of putting things into perspective. Since we've got more time on our hands as we continue to #stayathome, use it to discover some Manitoba-bred musicians you've been hearing so much about.
Of course, we are blessed with incredible musical talent in this province, and there are many more Manitoba musicians beyond what's listed here that are worth taking note of. During these times of cancelled tours, concerts and performances, we encourage Manitobans to tune into any of these artists' social media channels for virtual concerts - remember to make a donation or purchase their music as a show of thanks for helping to you get through the day.
William Prince, the pride of Peguis First Nation, is having a moment right now. From opening for Neil Young to performing in the recent nationwide Stronger Together, Tous Ensemble benefit concert (with the likes of Bryan Adams, Celine Dion and Michel Buble), Prince uses his guitar and storytelling to send healing. He released his sophomore album, Reliever, in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, lucky for his fans, means his profound lyrics can offer some solace and get to the heart of the matter. If you can't get enough of Prince's soothing rich baritone, tune into his weekly Sunday Verse, a meditation-app-meets-sermon audio series, where he reflects on some of life's lessons from growing up in Manitoba's largest First Nation community.
A pop songstress who rose from the central plains of Manitoba, Faouzia was born in Morocco but grew up in Notre Dame des Lourdes and Carman. At only 20 years old, Faouzia's deep pipes and catchy choruses make her a darling of Top 40 radio, and also snagged her a recent collaboration with mega-star Kelly Clarkson on her track "Do I Dare" (in which Fauozia sings in Arabic. So cool). Songs of empowerment and overcoming darkness are her jam, such as her latest single "Wake Me Up When It's Over"...which is kinda what a lot of us are thinking these days. Follow Fauozia on Instagram, along with 1.8M other fans.
James Ehnes may just be Manitoba's most acclaimed musician...that you've never heard of. The Brandon-born virtuoso, who now resides in Florida with his family, is a well-adored and respected violinist on the orchestral stage around the world. In 2019, Ehnes won double Grammys (Best Classical Instrumental Solo category for the Kernis: Violin Concerto and Best Contemporary Classical Composition) making him a pretty big deal in classical music circles. Tuning in to Ehnes' concerts via his Facebook may just be exactly what you need to allow your mind to slip away these days.
Arguably the most popular musical act at the moment among millennial Winnipeggers, Begonia (AKA Alexa Dirks) herself is actually a veteran of the Canadian music scene. Once part of the Juno award-winning harmony group Chic Gamine, Begonia now independently flaunts her powerhouse vocals that are equally full of soul, sass and sincerity. Her debut album's title track, Fear, is chock full of lyrics that may help you reflect on your mood during the current times: "I’m scared of everyone/One ear in the clouds and one to the ground/I jump and scatter at every sound/Where does my fear come from." Fans in the know have been connecting with their fav gal during isolation by tuning into her IG every Sunday at 5 pm for the ultimate cable access/talent show/karaoke party.
The Small Glories
Roots duo JD Edwards and Cara Luft of The Small Glories can help brighten any day with their upbeat, playful Americana sound. Their sophomore album, Assiniboine + the Red, is not only relatable, but it oozes Manitoba charm; theirs is a sound and style of folk that can't get anymore Canadian Prairie if they tried. The Small Glories cleaned up at the recent Canada Folk Music Awards with three wins for Assiniboine + the Red: Vocal Group of the Year, Ensemble of the Year, and Contemporary Album of the Year.
20-year-old indie songwriter Taylor Janzen has roots in small-town Manitoba, but is spreading her wings around North America these days. With a delicate voice backed by electric guitar, Janzen sings frankly about mental health and dysfunctional love in a style that's not quite folk, pop or rock. With a wisdom beyond her years, Janzen channels her emotions into raw lyrics, and her young fan base from Winnipeg and afar are thanking her for the honest conversation.
Singer songwriter Slow Leaves (AKA Grant Davidson) released his newest album Shelf Life during the COVID pandemic, and the album's first single "Sentimental Teardrops" is a confessional about the hopes and fears of life. It positions Slow Leaves as one of the city's most honest songwriters: "Sometimes I wanna be loved/As everyone should/And sometimes I wanna say nothing/And still be understood." Slow Leaves, as the name suggests, is mellow, low key and easy listening....a perfect companion for those days you just need to be still.
This cat is back...well, he never really went away. For the legions of working parents who are also homeschooling kiddos these days, Fred Penner could be your saving grace to keep them entertained as you fire a few emails back to the office. The beloved CBC children's entertainer from the '80s is still cool - and let's be honest, Fred can handily fill the roll of all the grandpas who are keeping respective social distances from their grandchildren at the moment. Fred's 40th anniversary "The Cat Came Back Tour" was cancelled midway due to COVID-19, but all Fred Heads out there can still watch him perform during his many Facebook Live appearances.
To discover more Manitoba musicians, tune into the Manitoba Music Facebook page every Thursday night at 7 pm for MB Live Sessions. These virtual concerts are done in collaboration with The Village Idiots, an underground music organization that produces the hugely popular concert series "Live at The Roslyn" regularly on Facebook Live.