With the pandemic all but temporarily closing the doors of music venues in places all over southwest Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan music aficionado Jimmy Dean came up with another venue… Facebook.
Saskatcha-Tune! Is a Facebook page where Saskatchewan musicians can send in videos of themselves performing songs: original or covers. As well, there have been other performers such as dance and spoken poetry.
Well it would be cliche to say ‘the show must go on’ for Saskatchewan music; singers and musicians have poured onto the site which was officially created March 24 by Regina resident Jimmy Dean. Dean, who is known within the Swift Current entertainment community, says Saskatcha-Tune! has grown a life of its own. As of the early morning of April 7, Saskatcha-Tune! had 2,722 members and quickly increasing.
“This started pretty organically. I was enjoying the live feeds from musicians all over the world, and did a few myself. One night, I noticed a friend (Neil Kosior) post something like ‘what the heck, everyone else is doing it so I guess I’m going live tonight’” recalls Dean. “In support of that, I replied ‘if you do one I’ll do one.’”
Dean explains from there that started calling people and many of Saskatchewan musicians of various experience joined.
“At that point I thought it would be great if this could all accumulate in one place, so people don’t have to go searching for it (live feeds) or just be lucky enough to happen upon it. The next evening I saw a news story about a similar page out east that was enjoying a very large membership, and I immediately made the group and started inviting and sharing,” says Dean. “I was surprised by the quick growth, but not really the participation. The Saskatchewan musicians have mostly always been a very supportive bunch. I am also glad that I didn’t just pigeon-hole the idea for music only. There is poetry, prose, interpretive dance, karaoke performance, art...you name it. It’s a mosaic of talent.”
He also adds this site is a safe haven for musicians and a place where fans can appreciate new and old favourites. He doesn’t want to build the page as a saviour for the provincial, non commercial music scenes but he sees the enjoyment everyone is getting from it and he is grateful and pleased.
“Hopefully (fans) will remember … and start supporting live performance once things get back to normal. It is definitely helping now by giving people a place safe from all the negativity that’s around us at the moment,” says Dean.
Southwest Saskatchewan performers are also pleased of the site’s existence. They have taken advantage of posting songs. For local performer Rri Olson, joining the site was an automatic.
“Jimmy and I became fast friends by singing together a few times at his jam sessions in the past, so for me it was an automatic yes to join his Facebook group of artists of all kinds,” notes Olson. “I was reluctant to post a video because I’m my own worst critic but Jimmy fosters positivity and support everywhere he goes and this Facebook group is no different. So I have now posted a few videos of me singing and playing guitar, some of my favourite acoustic songs, in my living room while we are all social distancing. I’ve received many gracious responses of appreciation. We need each other these days. It’s a good reminder of how connected we are through the arts and how comforting it is to express ourselves and share our talents.”
Another Swift Current-area perfomer is also a big fan of the site.
Country recording singer and music teacher Glenna Switzer wasn’t aware of the site until friend and fellow musician Oran Anderson added her to the group.
“I was surprised... but my response was ‘oh man, that’s so cool!’” explained Switzer. “I’m still really busy teaching thru Zoom etc so not sure if I’ll post a song but I’m really enjoying the songs and singers/musicians that I’m listening to. A lot of them I know.. but some I don’t so enjoying seeing the talented folks from around the province.
“It’s cool but that’s Saskatchewan for you isn’t it? I might sit down and start adding people/singers I know. This certainly gives creative people an outlet.”
It is difficult not to see the similarities between Saskatcha-Tune! And the Lyric Theatre’s talent nights. Switzer notes that there will be some positive results because of the site.
“The great thing about the Lyric is that musicians play together at the open stage who don’t usually play together…bands have been formed because of it. You just watch, bands will form thru this as well,” explained Switzer. “People who really enjoy the shows like Blenders (too) etc. will get to watch artists on Facebook.”
For Dean, he is just glad he can help. He knows how difficult these times are.
“It’s been a while since I was heavily involved in the music industry, but I have been self employed for most of my adult love - music industry for many years and in the hospitality industry for about the past 25 years, so I am familiar with the fact that EI does not exist for self employed people,” explains Dean. “I am heartbroken for anyone in that situation but glad to hear the Canadian government is stepping up. I hope it’s easily accessible to those in need.”