Leonard Podolak of The Duhks with CBC host Ismaila Alfa (CBC/Thacker)
I'm obviously very connected with the West End. My parents started it. I used to vacuum the rugs there, put up posters. It's a huge part of my life.
—Leonard Podolak, musician
Leonard Podolak, founder and musical visionary of The Duhks is clearly a happy banjo boy these days. Though they're not calling their upcoming show (March 22) at the West End Cultural Centre a reunion, it's a homecoming of sorts.
In 1995, Podolak founded Scruj MacDuhk, a band that eventually morphed into The Duhks. "I had this concept of French Canadian, Irish, old time Appalachian music with a contemporary twist. But really, the sound was made up of the musicians in the room," recalls Podolak.
The Duhks toured a lot, band members grappled with growing families and they eventually slowed down. "It was never because of any kind of animosity or conflicts within the ranks...We were playing 250 to 300 gigs a year, out for 10 or 11 months. It got to be too much." he admits.
Podolak says he's practically speechless about having the original members of the Duhks back together again (Scott Senior, Jessee Havey, Tania Elizabeth, Jordan McConnell)."It's the right thing happening in a weird kind of way. We're running the rat race, we're all trying to keep a roof over our head. So this year we'll only do about 30 gigs. Next year, something similar. We'll play at places that we really love and that really want to have us."
Podolak goes on to say that being in this band, in all its formations, has been life defining for everyone involved. "There's been many many great experiences with festivals, people, friends and life experiences. I even met my wife at a festival in Denmark - she moved to Winnipeg and is now a settlement worker for new immigrants."
Playing at the West End is also a defining moment for the group since this will be their first appearance there since it expanded. "I'm obviously very connected with the West End. My parents started it," Podolak says. "I used to vacuum the rugs there, put up posters. It's a huge part of my life."
Hear the Duhks at the West End Cultural Centre on Friday March 22. Before that, hear Leonard Podolak in conversation with CBC host Ismaila Alfa on SCENE On Air on March 16. The show airs every Saturday from 5 - 6 p.m. on CBC Radio One, 89.3 FM/990 AM/97.9 FM in Brandon.
Singer Sol James enjoys duelling musical personalities.