'It's a way of life': Folklorama through the eyes of its musicians

Philippe Meunier and Evan Maydaniuk are both performing in Folklorama pavilions this week - but not in the cultures they're from.

CBC speaks with two Folklorama performers about how music connects them to the culture of their pavilions

Philippe Meunyair (left) and Evan Maydaniuk are both performing in Folklorama pavilions this week. (Submitted )

Philippe Meunier and Evan Maydaniuk are both performing in Folklorama pavilions this week — but not in the cultures they were born into.

Meunier was born and raised in Quebec, but will be playing guitar at Folklorama's Pabellon de España, the Spain Pavilion.

Maydaniuk is Ukranian-Canadian, but he'll be playing the bagpipes at the Pavilion of Scotland.

Both men shared how the instruments they play connect them to culture of each pavilion.

A crush leads to bagpipe mastery

Maydaniuk says he got into playing bagpipes "kinda by accident."

He was in the Cadets program and because he had a crush on somebody in the band, he decided to join.

"I joined the band to try to get to know that person a little better," he laughed.

"That didn't work out, but the bagpipe did."

He was 12 when he first started playing the instrument, one he admits isn't easy to master.

Evan Maydaniuk (left) first started learning to play the bagpipes when he was 12, after entering the Cadets program. (Submitted )

Learning is a two-step process, he says, with players starting out on what's known as a practice chanter — which is kind of like a recorder, but with a reed inside of it.

"You learn the fingerings and the notations off of that instrument and once you're comfortable there you have to learn the actual bagpipe afterwards."

That's when he had to learn the breathing technique involved in making bagpipes work.

"Pipes are unique because they have that constant sound that most other instruments cannot do, and that's thanks to the bag we have, which is kind of like a third lung," he explained.

"It acts opposite of our lungs so when we're exhaling we're squeezing the bag to keep the bag constant on the reeds, and when we inhale we let the bag expand so the pressure remains constant."

He says his parents questioned his decision to learn the pipes at first.

"Are you sure this is what you want to do, are you sure?" he remembers them asking.

"But they're really supportive, I play in the house, in the basement regularly, which I'm sure at first was pretty awful for them I'd imagine."  

"Over the years I've gotten much better and they're very happy, they come to all my performances."

His parents even bought him his own set of pipes when he graduated high school.

'Welcoming and warmth'

Bagpipes are more than a little bit connected to Scottish culture, something Maydaniuk is not a part of.

So how was he received by Winnipeg's Scottish community?

"Nothing but welcoming and warmth," he says. "They've been super supportive."

In fact he's now leading his band.    

"Most of my band is all Scottish people and they kind of laugh it off that a Ukrainian is leading the band right now," he said.

"They're really supportive and they've coached me all the way."

The experience has taught him about Scottish culture. 

"There's really unique styles of music that are specific to bagpipe," he said. "They're just a lot of fun to play and it's a good way to get appreciation for the culture through music."

He hasn't been to Scotland, but plans to go.

He'll be performing at the Scottish pavilion at Glenwood Community Centre during the first week of the Folklorama.

From Saskatchewan to Seville 

Meunier says he came to learn Spanish guitar after years of travelling across Canada.

"I was born in Quebec but then I moved to Saskatchewan, in the prairies, where I met these wonderful people who came back from Spain, who got me into Flamenco," he explained.

Then he moved to Manitoba in 2003 and kept playing playing Flamenco in the city's music scene.

He also studied Flamenco in Spain after applying for grants at the Canada Arts Council.

He says his days were spent studying the guitar in Spain.

Meunier studied guitar in Spain, but says he first got into Flamenco music after meeting Spanish people in the prairies. (Submitted )

"Every morning, get up, take your guitar and go to class and be a good student," he laughed.

He would spend his evenings performing at locals music spots.

"You get to see people play Flamenco all night long," he said.

That led to meeting other musicians, who taught him outside of the school as well.

"What's interesting is, in Spain, you have the Roma people who also play Flamenco and I was really interested in learning from them," he explained.

"They are really part of the Flamenco history, they've really helped preserve and improve and make the whole Flamenco thing sound better."

He says he could have learned the basics of the music here, but going to Spain taught him more.

"Because it's a way of life actually," he said. "Music is part of their life."

Meunier will be performing at the Spanish pavilion, which is running during the second week of Folklorama at Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church.

Folklorama kicked off Sunday and runs till Aug. 18.