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Canadian Pagan Musicians You Won’t Want to Miss
Because I released a new CD in these past two weeks since my last blog entry here, I have had music on the brain, and it occurs to me that Canada has a few talented Pagan musicians who deserve recognition. Because we have a smaller population than the US, it’s harder for our musicians to make a living. Let’s face it; it’s a niche market, and our market is smaller, so most Canadian Pagan musicians make US appearances too. If you’re a Pagan music fan you might want to check these folks out. Disclaimer – I have learned that music is very subjective and these are strictly my opinions. But because I like these artists and I want you to check them out, I will provide as many links as I can to their music so you can listen for yourself, and maybe support also if you share my love.
The Ancient Gods http://www.reverbnation.com/ancientgods – I met these three when I went out to a little town called Fruitvale to officiate my first legal Wiccan wedding. They’re from Castlegar, BC, and they’ve just quietly been performing their own unique rhythmically-driven filk and folk music with growling male vocals, acoustic guitars and violin for many years. I once likened it to heavy metal with acoustic instruments and a djembe. They don’t have a website but they’re starting to get their word out on the web. If you don’t hear them on their ReverbNation site you can find them at CBC Music.
Vanessa Cardui http://www.vanessacardui.ca – I just discovered her recently. Vanessa is from Calgary, AB, and she does acoustic and acapella music with lovely, dulcet tones, some of which is raw Pagan (check out her song “Invocation” which impressed the Hel out of me!), some of which is Renaissance Faire and filk music (her song “The Dragon-Slayer” made me nearly pee myself laughing – language warning!), and some of which is more mainstream folk contemporary. She’s also a SCAdian like me (she’s even part of the same kingdom.) She has a YouTube channel which is full of her live performances and videos; well worth having a listen!
Castalia http://www.castaliamusic.ca– I had occasion to meet Castalia a few years back when she did a Canadian tour and played a show in Kelowna, and I was honoured to provide crash space. Picture an alto Loreena McKennitt who sings unabashedly about pure Wiccan spirituality and you’ve got the idea. Castalia is a Toronto native and long-time member of and High Priestess in the Wiccan Church of Canada and she writes about Sabbats, the union of the Lord and Lady, initiation, and more in a similar vein. Like McKennitt, she also puts classic Victorian poetry to music. She accompanies her rich, enchanting alto with harp or acoustic guitar. Castalia has produced four CDs, each one of which is worth the money. She seems to be a little internet shy, but you can find music samples on her website, and I found a playlist of her songs, including live bootleg recordings on YouTube at this link.
Chalice and Blade http://www.myspace.com/chaliceandblade – Chalice and Blade has, unfortunately, recently parted ways. I discovered them when they were known as Parnassus, when they produced their first CD “First Degree.” Their musical style varies from folkish to contemporary, and they make good use of harmonies and combine male and female vocals quite well. Their subject matter is very Wiccan traditional, including professional versions of popular chants and original story-songs, or classic folk tunes with distinctly Pagan themes. These guys sort of define the Vancouver Pagan music scene, and they’re also a nice bunch of people (I attend a lot of Vancouver Pagan events, being only four hours away.) You can buy their music at CD Baby and you can hear them at this YouTube playlist.
Dano Hammer http://www.danohammer.com – I mentioned the “Heathen Rapper” in my last article for his other accomplishments in North American Paganism. His music is like nothing else you’ll ever hear. It’s classic hip hop, but he raps about developing a relationship with your ancestors, about the Norse gods, about having honour in your daily dealings, loving the natural world, and other distinctly Heathen and Pagan themes. He also has an exceptionally deep voice, and this combines with his exquisite sense of rhythm and diction and his poetic lyrics to create a combination that I find irresistible, even though I’m not really a hip hop fan. It’s kind of like Eminem; whether you like or hate hip hop, or you like or hate him, you still have to admire his hard-edged poetry if you take the time to listen to what he has to say. You can listen to his music on his ReverbNation site or his YouTube channel.
Dragon Ritual Drummers http://dragonritualdrummers.com – I had the pleasure of seeing these guys live at the Canadian National Pagan Conference in Montreal (2010). Witchdoctor Utu, the band leader, is a New Orleans-style Voodoo priest and a Witch and they incorporate voodoo ceremony into every performance. It’s fantastic, high energy, and quite the show to watch! Syncopated rhythms spanning multiple cultures and traditions are the unique style of these talented Ontario musicians. You can hear their work at their ReverbNation site and on their YouTube channel.
Tamarra James https://www.facebook.com/tamarra.james – You’ve heard this name before too. Tamarra is one of the founders of the Wiccan Church of Canada in Toronto. What is less well known is that she is also a talented musician. The first piece of hers that I ever heard was “The Wild Hunt” from her 1999 release “Carpe Noctum,” which is available at Amazon. She has also written music for many other Pagan musicians, including the classic “Herne,” which was (to my knowledge) first recorded by Kenny (Klein) and Tzipora in 1991, and recorded again by Castalia on her 2006 album “In Plain Sight.”
Mo Jo http://thewigglianway.libsyn.com – I often find that the people who go out and do things in the Pagan community are . . . well, the people who go out and do things. Mo Jo is probably best known for “The Wigglian Way” podcast, but he’s also a gifted singer-songwriter. Recently he has come from the ashes of “Chalice and Blade” to pursue his own solo career. Lacking the harmonies of his band but missing none of the guitar-playing talent, the rough rock-and-roll vocals, or the lyrical acuity, he’s well worth following. His genre is probably best described as acoustic folk rock. You can hear his work at his ReverbNation page and you can see some of his live performances at last year’s Sun Wheel Pagan Arts Festival on Radio Pagan Edmonton’s YouTube channel.
Brendan Myers http://www.brendanmyers.net – Okay, you’ve heard of him before too. His music, classic Celtic-style folk with the deep, poetic lyrics you might expect from a professional Pagan Druid philosopher, is much less well known, and actually quite impossible to find on the internet. I happen to have a copy of his album “The Island” and it’s amazing. He’s so busy writing and holding down his teaching job in Gatineau, QC, that he barely has time for the music, I think; but he’s good and if you get the chance, pick up his CD. You won’t regret it.
Raven’s Call http://ravenscallband.webs.com – A Pagan Celtic folk-rock band just starting to make a real name for themselves out of Edmonton, AB. They also appeared at Sun Wheel last year and they do gigs around Edmonton. They have that harmonic quality that was a part of Chalice and Blade, and they sing original pieces and classic folk tunes. You can sample their work at Freewebs in sound bytes. Unfortunately you can’t find them on YouTube yet.
Sable http://sablearadia.webs.com – I do music too. Thought you might want to know. I won’t review myself of course, but my style is kind of a Leslie Fish / Heather Alexander type thing; filk and folk acoustic, mostly guitar and acapella, as well as some Pagan-inspired meditation music. If you want to hear it, you can find it to stream at my ReverbNation site, my Bandcamp site, or on my YouTube channel.
If you are a fan of Pagan arts and music, the events you don’t want to miss are the Canadian National Pagan Conference, which incorporates Canadian musical talent and a music stream as part of the events, and the Sun Wheel Pagan Arts Festival on the Canada Day long weekend (near July 1st, for those who may not know.) Mo Jo, Vanessa and I will also be performing there, and there’s a good chance you’ll see Raven’s Call as well since that’s not far from home for them, and headlining will be the talented and indomitable Sharon Knight.
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