Drumming to her own beat

Lauri Lyster - The Drummer Girl still - aren't we clever video by Rod Matheson

Kat Wahamaa wears a lot of hats. Along with being a musician and a mom, she is also a publicist and the co-artistic director of an artist’s collective. Her band Kat and Tony recently released a new album, Everything Blue, and she is currently playing mandolin and singing in the Firehall Arts Centre’s The Drummer Girl with her longtime friend and colleague Lauri Lyster.

Wahamaa has known Lyster since 1996 when she played on Wahamaa’s solo album Wise Woman. The Drummer Girl is a show about Lyster’s experiences as a professional musician in Vancouver from playing with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to being part of a jazz ensemble.

“It’s kind of universal. It’s Lauri’s personal experience; she’s a multi-disciplinary artist who works in many different genres,” said Wahamma. “The show is about what it’s like to be a mom and a musician.”

Lyster’s and Wahamaa’s careers are similar in more ways than one: “I can relate to all the different places you can find yourself in as a musician and you’re thinking something like, ‘At least he didn’t throw up on my shoe,’” laughed Wahamaa. “It’s a mom’s perspective which I can relate to as well,” she continued, “I believe in engaging children in the joy of making music.”

Although Lyster incorporates many songs into her show, there are also many sections of dialogue and humourous anecdotes she shares with the audience. “It’s interesting, extremely engaging, and there’s a wonderful selection of tunes,” said Wahamaa, “and the writing is also entertaining.”

Lauri Lyster in Winter Harp

After hearing about Lyster’s experiences, “the audience will leave uplifted by the music and the humour,” said Wahamaa. “It’s also an eye-opener in some respects,” she continued, “it’s not all glamour and limos. They’ll see that there’s such a broad spectrum of artists to discover, and maybe they’ll be inspired to make some of their own music.”

While possibly eye-opening about the realities of the music industry, Wahamaa said that the institution is part of the culture in North America and musicians support it regardless. “The music industry is this thing that’s over there and looms over everything musicians do,” she continued, “it’s a continuum, so I can’t say whether it’s good or bad.”

The Internet, for example, has both a good and bad side, said Wahamma: “It allows you to share your music with a huge audience, but it creates anonymity on a grand scale.”

On Wahamaa’s new Kat and Tony album, she seems to have done things her own way. The album was completed over a couple of years, and songs were recorded in Japan and Mission, BC.

Wahamaa and partner in music and life Tony Rees are glad to have this album finished and she said they ended up with almost two more albums worth of material. Kat and Tony also play with other artists: “It’s nice because we can just go out the two of us or we can bring a seven piece band,” said Wahamaa.

The Drummer Girl premiered in 2012, and Wahamaa and the entire cast is looking forward to remounting it. The show is about life as a musician, and as Wahamaa said, “Being a musician, there’s no lack of interesting times. There’s also the pure joy that the music gives you, putting you in the flow; the here and now.” Just like a great song, Wahamaa said of the show: “It’s gonna leave you feeling good, and the feeling will linger.”

The Drummer Girl will be presented at Firehall Arts Centre until February 22. For more information visit firehallartscentre.ca.

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