Sunday, April 30, 2006

also from the Toronto Star....

Live or online
Musical mothers are at the microphone around town:

Open stage Mondays at Freetimes Café, 320 College St. at Spadina Ave. First Monday of the month hosted by Laura Fernandez (laurafernandez Signup at 7p.m., show starts at 8 p.m.

Girls Night Out Jazz Jam, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. to midnight, Ten Feet Tall, 1381 Danforth Ave. at Greenwood Ave.

Open stage at Fat Albert's, Steelworkers Union Hall, 25 Cecil St., Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.

Open mike hosted by Maria Kasstan at The Lakeview Lunch, 1132 Dundas St. W. at Ossington, Thursdays, 8:30 p.m.

House gig hosted by Sandi Marie Porter (sandi, first Friday of the month, Grossman's Tavern, 379 Spadina Ave., 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Laura Fernandez jams with featured guests at Loons, 416 Roncesvalles Ave., Fridays 9 p.m.

For more about Mamapalooza performers, visit, click on "All About Mama" and "All Rockin' Moms."

Other websites include:

Choir Girlz (Debbie Fleming, Mary Ellen Moore and Dorothy McDonall)

Marianne Girard

Sandi Marie

Lynda Marks Kraar

Heather Katz

Laura Fernandez

Lynn Harrison

Mad Housewives

Zoe Chilco

The Sisters of Shaynville

Monday, April 17, 2006

“Every culture has its way of passing on wisdom of its mature women,” says Maria Kasstan, right, host of an open mike at The Lakeview Lunch, on Dundas St. W., every Thursday. She’s joined by poet Fran McCann, who will also perform at Mamapalooza. Photo by KEITH BEATY / TORONTO STAR


Baby, they rock

Moms who make the truth about life worthy of song put it all together for Mamapalooza on Mother's Day

Apr. 15, 2006. 10:10 AM

I broke in my shoes on the mommy-track
Bein' everything to everyone.
I've been a doctor, a teacher, accountant and a chef
Psychiatrist and super-mom!
-- "Nothin' in the World (That This Old Girl Can't Do)" by Debbie Fleming

Debbie Fleming knows all about being "everything to everyone." After all, she is a mother. But she forgot to mention one other role when she wrote that song — professional musician. Because while Fleming was a single mom raising two kids in Toronto, she was also eking out a living singing advertising jingles (Diet Pepsi, Pizza Nova, Suzy Shier), writing songs, and performing rock, jazz, country and R'n'B, not to mention being in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.

"I wasn't one of those mothers who got down on the floor and coloured with them or baked cookies," says Fleming, now a 62-year-old grandmother who still writes, records and performs. Instead, she became living proof that the juggling act of motherhood is fertile ground for the creative musical mind.

Listen carefully and you can hear a growing chorus of mothers out there. Melodies, harmonies, poetry. Strumming guitars, plucking banjos, stomping a beat. Crooning ballads and belting out rock tunes. They do country and punk and jazz and choral. They go solo, sing in garage bands, or a capella.

And this year on Mother's Day, you can listen to them for a whole afternoon as women join forces to celebrate motherhood and music at Canada's first Mamapalooza festival. The event, presented by promoter Gary Topp, will be held at Lula Lounge in downtown Toronto on May 14.

"It's an opportunity en masse to say to people, `Here we are, we have great music, come listen!'" says Mary Ellen Moore, who sings with Fleming in the bluegrass trio Choir Girlz, which is among the 31 Canadian performers on the roster.

Remember Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" from 1972? Well at Mamapalooza it'll be "Militant Mom." And "The Tooth Fairy Forgot," "The Vacuum Cleaner Tango" and "The Bad Parent's Song."

Mamapalooza, which began four years ago in New York City and spread across the U.S., is coming to Canada largely because of Lynda Kraar, who grew up in Toronto and is now a suburban mom and rock chick living in New Jersey.

She performed in the New York festival last year and was sure that if it came to Canada, "moms who rock" would come out of the woodwork. They have.

Kraar says it's a great way for mama musicians to support each other, get to know each other and encourage all those other ones strumming away at their kitchen tables to get out and make some noise.

"My daughters' jaws dropped to the floor to see older women doing this amazing thing and being really great at this. It's a real shock to the kids," she explains on the phone between interruptions to co-ordinate picking up her teenager from drama and razzing the 12-year-old for not eating her lunch.

Mamapalooza was founded by Joy Rose, who, with her six-mom group Housewives on Prozac, sings such songs as "Pee Alone" and "Fuzzy Slippers." In Britain, punk bands like The Mothers wail out tunes like "The Nit Song" (yes, it's a lesson on why your kids shouldn't trade baseball caps).

Many of the performers at the Canadian show seem to take a more subtle approach, with acoustic guitars and more of a folksy pop sound.

Like Toronto singer-songwriter Lynn Harrison. The 42-year-old mother of two school-age kids was a "closet musician" from the age of 12 and eventually became a television writer. Then, something about being a mother inspired her to go public.

The day Harrison's eldest started JK in 1998, she wrote the poignant "First Day of School." The next day she grabbed her guitar, marched into a café in her Riverdale neighbourhood and announced, "I'd like to do a gig." After she played for the owner, she recalls, "he said, `I really like your music but do you have anything that isn't about kids?'"

Harrison laughs. Almost eight years, three CDs and countless gigs later, sure, she sings about all kinds of things. But it's often her songs about everyday life, her kids and her house that people most appreciate.

She's sharing her story around a table of other Mamapalooza performers during an open stage night at a Toronto restaurant.

Some musicians, like Sandi Marie Porter, keep blazing on through childrearing. Porter, now 52, used to drag her kids off to every festival they were allowed to attend. "I recorded with babies on my hip."

Laura Fernandez, 45, had written music since childhood but put it on the shelf for a career as an illustrator. After a decade, it came bursting out, shaped and matured by motherhood, she says. She's been performing and recording ever since. "It was like I had lost myself for a long time and then I found myself."

Ilana Waldston, 43, of Toronto had done some musical theatre before her two kids were born. Two years ago, someone asked her, "What's the one thing you've always wanted to do that you've never done?"

She thought about it. Then she hired a voice coach, took a course on the art of cabaret and worked on her patter. Now she has regular gigs singing "comedic cabaret with a jazz sensibility." To Maria Kasstan, a veteran performer who sang protest songs and did the Yorkville coffee houses before life got overtaken by raising four kids, the Mamapalooza movement celebrates something fundamental.

"Every culture has its way of passing on wisdom of its mature women," says Kasstan, 56, who has three grandkids. Her husband of 25 years died 18 months ago and returning to the music scene was a way to get through her grief. "I think it's actually the only reason I'm still alive." Kasstan is small and gentle. But she plays a mean guitar and has an edge in her voice when she belts out "The Bad Parent's Song."

"I think a lot of people try to live up to an unrealistic ideal with their kids, and some of us never did figure that out," she says of the song's origins.

Being identified as mothers can be a mixed blessing. Especially when you're a musician in your own right. Because who needs to be pigeon-holed?

"Does anybody care how many kids Mick Jagger has?" quips Kasstan. Adds Waldston, "Does anybody even know?"

Never mind the whole ageism thing that permeates the mainstream music industry. "Nobody says you're too old, but it's there," says Marianne Girard of Newmarket, who put her music on hold while she raised three kids on her own. "It doesn't matter that I sing better and I write better than I ever have."

She says events like Mamapalooza are important to the many other women out there who need inspiration. "We're soldiers. We really have to blaze the trail."

As Harrison points out: "Just because you're not famous doesn't mean you're not good."

For more information about Mamapalooza on May 14, visit or call 416-588-0307. Tickets $15, $5 for kids under 10. Doors open at noon, show starts at 1 p.m.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Oj, Madagaskar!
Heil, Sachsenhausen!
In search of satire and song...can you help me?

Dear Friends,

In retracing my mother's footsteps in Siberia, I read in her memoirs that my mother was a huge movie buff, mostly musicals, but she drank in the culture of wherever she was, if only to escape from the reality for an hour or two at a time. Mum even spent a brief period working a mail route in Ust-Kamenogorsk, delivering mail to the local theatre owner. He would give her tickets to shows, and she went to them all. My frustration is that she mentioned the films in passing, as if I were supposed to know what or where they were!

To round out my quest, I am looking for information and leads about the following and would relish any information you may have -- either in English, Polish, or even German or Russian.

Here's my list, with many thanks in advance,
Lynda Kraar

1. Popular music from Russian movies that were in theatres (in Siberia and chiefly -- for my purpose -- in the theatres in Ust Kamenogorsk and Leninogorsk) in the 1940s, particularly from 1940 to 1946.

2. Any other music that is associated with General Wladislaw Anders (such as Oj Madagaskar and Heil Sachsenhausen) that is satirical, possibly religious and definitely political. I am also interested in the composers and the performers; and whether/how they recorded this material.

3. Names of movies (I'm mostly interested in musicals) in Poland that were likely to have been showing in Lodz from 1946 through 1950, and any other info about those movies. Do you know if Andrzej Wajda or the Lodz Film School might have archives of such things?

3a. Looking for copies of the Polish Kino magazine from 1930-1939.

4. The Polish music book which features the music for Oj Madagaskar and possibly name of the publisher.

5. Music of the Chor Dana (Walter Dana – Wladyslaw Dan Danilowski), and where can I find some? I am particularly interested in his work in Poland from 1930 through 1939.

Any information is greatly appreciated!

Lynda Kraar
GuitarGirl on

Friday, April 07, 2006

Why is this Night Different from all Other Nights?

SoCalled at Joe's Pub this Saturday night! Join me!

Hip Hop Seder Event this Saturday night at Joe's Pub, 425 Lafayette St. NYC

Straight from their European tour, JDub recording artist SoCalled (aka Josh Dolgin) and friends will present a very special set of Jewish music at Joe's Pub in New York City on Saturday, April 8, at 11:30 p.m. Cover charge is $10.

The event is described as "An Eastern European-laced hip hop shtetl dance party hosted by accordion wielding, Yiddish rapping Klezmer-Hip Hop maestro SoCalled. A collision of MCs, beatboxers and badkhanim get together to celebrate the acclaimed SoCalled Seder album, which imagines the Seder that would take place if Williamsburg's hipsters, hip hop heads, and hasidim drank enough to sit down together at one table."

Go to for more information on the date and also to hear "Who Knows One" from So-Called's CD "Hip Hop Seder." It's must-have listening over Pesach, and also features hasidic reggae sensation Matisyahu. Looking forward to seeing you there!

A frayliche Paysach,
Lynda Kraar

Monday, April 03, 2006

in Toronto...

They have jobs. They have kids. They're in car pools. But in their spare time they're plugging in and playing away.

Mama's growing! Now in 30 worldly locations, it's Toronto's turn to get it on. A mother of a festival...singer-songwriters, rockers, poets and comics laughing, singing and stomping their way out of the kitchen and into your hearts.

1-5 pm Mothers' Day Sunday May 14
$15 adults; $5 kids under 10 years
doors @ noon:
LULA LOUNGE: 1585 Dundas, just w/ Dufferin, TorontoBrunch reservations guarantee best seating
Call LULA @ 416-588-0307