With the Rolling Stone Choose the Cover contest now completed and the spotlight shining on Saskatoon’s own The Sheepdogs (www.thesheepdogs.com), many are left wondering what it is about this city of only 250,000 that can produce such talent. While Saskatonians may be too humble to admit it, we do have a diverse up-and-coming music scene that encompasses as many generations as it does genres.
Legendary Grammy Award-winning folk/pop artist Joni Mitchell (www.jonimitchell.com) was born in Fort McCloud Alberta, but was raised in Saskatoon, where her family moved when she was nine years old. As a teenager, Joni first taught herself ukulele, followed by guitar. She began performing at parties and bonfires, which eventually led to gigs playing in coffeehouses and other venues around Saskatoon. She told CTV’s Canada AM: "You carry your childhood with you regardless of who you are. Saskatchewan is in my veins." Mitchell brought the world such classic hits as Big Yellow Taxi and Help Me as well as Songs of a Prairie Girl, an entire album of songs inspired by Saskatchewan to celebrate its centennial in 2005.
Dingwall Guitars (www.dingwallguitars.com) may not be Saskatchewan’s biggest volume exporter but they definitely produce some of the richest sounds. Relying on expert craftsmanship and an innovative fret board design, Dingwall’s bass guitars have gained recognition in music communities around the world. The public can contact Dingwall Guitars to put together a tour including some hands-on experiences and demonstrations of their high-quality instruments. Another guitar manufacturer in the city, Fury Guitars (www.furyguitar.com), is credited with building the first electric guitars in Canada back in 1962.
Held annually in Saskatoon, the 10-day SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival (www.saskjazz.com) features over 140 performances of music genres including jazz, blues, funk, world music, and pop – which equates to over 176 hours of live music. It is the second largest jazz festival in Western Canada, and fifth largest in the country. More than 70,000 visitors attended the festival in 2010. No matter how successful they become, the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival will continue to offer something many bigger festivals can't: a truly intimate concert experience.
The University of Saskatchewan Amati Quartet (www.amatiquartet.usask.ca) delights audiences, playing to capacity crowds and presenting time-honoured classics. The quartet performs on 17th century instruments crafted by the Amati family of Italy and collected by the late Stephen Kolbinson, one of Saskatchewan’s first homesteaders. The quartet of instruments (two violins, a viola, and a cello) is unique not only to Canada but is one of only three sets in the world! The collector sold the instruments to the University of Saskatchewan in 1959 with the deep desire that these rare gems be shared with the people of the province.
Located in Nutana, one of Saskatoon’s most historic neighbourhoods, Broadway Avenue (www.onbroadway.ca) is a successful commercial area with small town charm. Evenings are when Broadway really comes to life with cover bands, poetry, music-lovers, dance floors, metal heads, hipsters, emerging artists, veteran musicians, and even the occasional late-night hot dog vendor. From the newest indie bands that frequent Amigos Cantina to the classic rock tributes at The Fez on Broadway, you can find something for any music taste.
The Deep Dark Woods (www.thedeepdarkwoods.com) are Saskatoon’s maestros of folk-rock. Released in 2009, the band’s third studio album, Winter Hours, won them national acclaim as Ensemble of the Year at the 2009 Canadian Folk Music Awards. The band also had the runaway winner in CBC’s Great Canadian Song Quest with Charlie’s (Is Coming Down), a song about Good Time Charlie’s in Regina, Saskatchewan. The Deep Dark Woods frame their music with subtleties, embodying the true humility of their hometown.
During late February, when most other Canadian music festivals are waiting for summer, the Saskatoon Blues Festival (www.saskatoonbluessociety.ca) cranks out some red-hot blues during the icy winter season. Award-winning artists frequent the annual festival at two major venues, each focusing on a different crowd experience: a feisty electric blues cabaret and an intimate acoustic blues concert. The four-day event may include free workshops, a music swap-meet, a Blues Band Camp showcase and other family-oriented events. The Saskatoon Blues Festival has received national recognition. In 2011, the Blues Booster of the Year, a very special Maple Blues Award honouring outstanding contribution to the Canadian blues music industry was presented to Gord MacAulay, Chair of the Saskatoon Blues Festival and a long time serving board member of the Saskatoon Blues Society.
For more information or to plan your Saskatoon getaway, visit www.tourismsaskatoon.com.