Carmanah Band coming to Orangeville next week

March 16, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Laura Mina Mitic had a dream, similar to lots of young girls, at 15, playing a guitar, singing songs others had written, songs she wrote herself. She joined amateur bands and discovered that she preferred singing with others to singing by herself. So, she dreamed of finding the right musicians, “along the path” with whom to play, a band with whom to work and build a collective career.

Living in Victoria, B.C., where there is a strong music scene, a couple of years ago, Laura Mina met Pat Ferguson at a festival. “We played together spontaneously,” she related the beginnings of their musical friendship, “and found we really matched. So, we stayed to play together.”

They did gigs at venues, inviting other musicians to join them, over the next two years until they met, at different times, Mike Baker and Marek Olsen. and ultimately formed the Carmanah Band, which will visit Orangeville next week as part of an Ontario tour.

“We met and played with other musicians. Over the last couple of years, we got together with Marek and then, Mike and now we’re very excited about performing together.”

The name Carmanah comes from the mighty, uncut rainforest in B.C.’s Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park. It is one of the few remaining ancient forests still protected from logging, which, heartbreakingly, is permitted elsewhere on Vancouver Island. It was initially named Carmanah Provincial Park in tribute for Randy Stoltmann, a conservationist who, with a friend, discovered the “legendary giants.” After many years of tireless campaigning for the trees to be saved, the result was formation of the provincial park. When the upper Carmanah and the Walbran Valleys were added, Mr Stoltmann’s dream of saving the trees became a reality and the name was changed to the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park.

Rich and valuable beyond words, the forest is inhabited with many species of wildlife, birds, bats and insects. When an ancient tree dies naturally and falls, it provides intense regeneration where it lays, for the earth and its inhabitants.

It is in honour of this wonderful forest, the band took its name, calling themselves Carmanah. With this noble connection to nature, they are making a reputation of good music and a very caring approach to their own environmental footprint, in  British Columbia and, increasingly, the rest of the country.

Their style of music is “eclectic,” taken form a wide range of music: Laura Mina talked about them, “Folk, multiple influences – West Coast Soul, Rock. I play the guitar and violin. I do the vocals but with the band, we sing four-part harmony.”

Their upcoming tour in Ontario celebrates the release of their new album, Speak in Rhythms, which came out in February. During this tour of Toronto, London, Collingwood, Kingsville, they will perform at Orangeville’s Mill Street Pub next Thursday, March 22.

“Then, we fly back to Vancouver in time for the Juno Festival on March 24. The Juno’s are held in a different city every year and this time, it’s Vancouver,” she said.

Most of the songs they sing are written by Laura Mina, on her own and in collaboration with Pat. The others contribute to the arrangement of the music, creating such songs as Boxcar, Never Goin’ back, and Voices Over Water.

Pat Ferguson, vocals and guitar, is a self-taught musician, playing in festivals since he was 16. “What makes his music is his love of playing. He doesn’t read music; he just plays everything by ear – wonderfully,” Laura told us.

Of the four, Mike Baker (vocals and keyboard) has the most formal training. He studied keyboard in university, both classical and jazz performance and theory.

She said, “He also did computer sciences. Of us all, he has the most music training .”

Marek Olsen, vocals and bass, came into the band having played the piano in his early years but was “really drawn to the bass- he loves the rhythm.”

Nick Laba is the glue – the man on the drums.

Having said all that, Pat Ferguson is also an industrial electrician and has “much mechanical experience” which he put into converting his “1997 Dodge Ram diesel to run on waste vegetable oil WVO (aka straight vegetable oil -SVO).”

Using a two-tank system, one each of diesel fuel and SVO, to which mechanics are connected with the engine, controlling which fuel is pumped as they drive along. It took him the better part of a month to research, buy parts and assemble this arrangement as needed.

The truck has to be started with diesel fuel but, once well warmed up, can be switched to the SVO, which they get from restaurants as they go along. At the end of the drive, the SVO must be purged from the engine to start the next drive with the diesel.

Says Mr Ferguson, “This is a lifestyle. It’s not a walk in the park but it has saved us nearly $10,000 in the last three years, driving nearly 100,00 kilometres, fully loaded with band equipment and six band members….[including his dog, Spud.]”

For his next project, he is working on a 1972 GM PD4905A Greyhound bus, once again powered with vegetable oil, while also engineering heating, solar and looking for sponsors, to be off grid travelling musicians – with comfort!

As well: keeping with this concern for the environment, Carmanah is a dedicated member of the Jelly Fish Project. Originally created by a band that saw a way to capture the attention of students in school presentations to the peril in which the Oceans currently exist. Using rock music to open their presentations, the band members go on to talk about the Oceans’ problems and what can and must be done about it.

About their future, Laura Mina reflected, “We talked about our ambitions for the band: to keep our eyes on the road ahead. Travelling, we meet amazing people. We add to the vegetable oil thinking – we’re very conscious of when we are eating on the road. We never use plastic forks and anything we might throw away.”

All this and a great concert coming to Orangeville on March 22 at the Mill Street Pub. It will be fantastic. Doors open at 6:30 for a 7:00 pm show. Tickets are $25 will be available at the pub.

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