The Courier sits down with Doug Koyama.

The Caledonia Courier sat down with musician Doug Koyama about his career and thoughts on the power of music.


1) A brief background of your musical career


I have been singing for as long as I can remember. As a child I sang in the junior choir in my home town, then in musical theatre productions, during, and just after high school. Then for a long time I only sang in the shower. In my 40s I did a production of HMS Pinafore in Prince George and then six shows with a small community theatre company south of Quesnel starting in 2006.


In 2009 I was introduced to Improvised A Capella and immediately started looking for a way to sing more in a multi-voice environment. A loop pedal offered a gateway into a musical form where I can explore and play with rhythm, melody/harmony and interlocking vocal patterns to create music with my voice. I then sing, sometimes with words, more often not but rather in an improvised language that sounds like it might be words, but isn’t.  More recently I have started to add some sampled instrument sounds through an iPad and a small MIDI controller.


In 2011 I moved into my car and started driving around making music wherever I could. In that first summer I booked and played at six BC music festivals as well as played shows in BC, Alberta and Ontario. My summer festival appearances have steadily increased; in the summer of 2014 I booked and played at twelve BC music festivals. This fall, for the first time, I am not returning to a winter job (that I had been doing for the past three years), and intend to continue working exclusively on music into the foreseeable future.

2) Where you draw your influences, what inspires your music?

When I think about what inspires my music I think there’s a two-part answer. What informs my music is all the music I have heard in my life. I have always loved all kinds of music, from classic rock to country and from classical to Tuvin throat singing . . . and everything in between. I think it is this foundation of influences that helps me to do what I do. As far as specific influences goes I and inspired by innovation and exploration in music. People like Bobby McFerrin, Brian Eno, Reggie Watts, Phillip Glass, DubFX and Rhiannon (the jazz singer).

What inspires my music in any given performance are the energies that exist within the space where it is being created. I feed off the energy of the people in the room and the music is the result. Each show is unique and created specifically for the beautiful souls who are there sharing the space with me.

3) Why were you performing at the Fort St. James house party, was it a benefit show of some sort or raising money for something or was it merely a regular gig and a fun event?

As a touring musician I try to swing through The Fort two to four times a year. It’s always good to see my friends here and share music. The show was a part of my fall tour and held for the benefit of me. The night was started by the beautiful and talented Susu Robin, who held the audience captivated for her entire set. We asked guests to bring non-perishable food items, which have been distributed to people in need in Fort St. James by my friend Emily Colombo.

4) You performed at Music on the Mountain as well, what was that experience like and what are your feelings towards Fort St. James.

I really love Fort St. James. The folks I have met, and come to know here in the past five years are a delightful mix of folks who all love their community and are working hard to make it better for everyone. I have been to the MoM Festival each year since it started in 2010. It’s amazing to me that this beautiful festival comes from so few volunteers. The small group of dedicated community members who work tirelessly to create MoM every year are among the hardest working, dedicated folks I know. What results is the most beautiful expression of love for community. It’s really great, really powerful.

5) What was the attendance like at the event? Are their future ones planned for the Fort St. James area?

The house concert was “lightly” attended; I think there were twelve or thirteen people in all. Getting folks to come to shows is often the hardest thing to do. People all live busy lives and rush from place to place doing one activity after another, squeezing unscheduled things in and then collapsing onto their beds at the end of the night. There’s little room for entertainment in that equation, let alone music that is out of the ordinary.


I believe that in a world where our success is not our own but rather a measure of how we are doing compared to everyone else, that we are all going to need music and the arts to maintain our sanity. More and more people are succumbing to suicide in this world (global suicide rates have risen 60% in the past 45 years. and music is a great way to help keep people connected to their community.


Noted Canadian author Gabrielle Roy asked: “Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?” I believe that we will come back to a time when the music and the arts are a more integrated part of our society. As it exists now, the people who own this place want us to believe that music is one of two things: 1. it is a product that is bought and sold and; 2. it is a tool that is used to sell other products. While music is those things, it is not ONLY those things. Historically, music is the way we celebrate, it’s the way we commiserate, and it’s the way we pass the time of day in the winter when the rain or snow falls. Music is OF us! When we observe ourselves at a microscopic level what we find there is vibration, everything about our existence vibrates and music is vibration.


I think we have, as a society, been sold the idea that “Our Favourite Music” comes only on the radio. The reality of it is that the reason they package it that way on the radio is so they can understand who we are (demographically speaking), and then market products to us. It’s less about having good music and more about getting other things into our hands. The radio and TV are not entertainment devices, they are sales tools and a lot of people depend on them for their new music.


But in spite of that, new music exists everywhere, in every town in every corner of the world there are beautiful, talented, inspired people who are making truly amazing music. The challenge is to convince the rest of you people, all of whom like music, to take a chance on something you haven’t heard before. To let the emotionality of the music move you instead of insisting that each song must be one that you know and have decided you like already. There is a world of music waiting to be discovered. It is packaged a little differently than when you were young, it’s called “Music Festival” and “House Concert” now. But you can be sure the music is something presented by someone who is passionate about what they are doing. You can see the love of it that comes out in the performance.


I plan to return to Fort St. James every 3-5 months until the end of time. In the years I have been coming here I have made some great, life-long friends and I plan to come visit and share music with them as much as I can.

6) What do you hope to achieve through your music? What does it mean to you?

I believe that music is meant to be the connective tissue that binds us together as individuals, into a larger, like-minded community. When we share the creation or enjoyment of music it implants that vibration, that resonance in our beings and gives us something in common with the other souls who were there. What I try to do with my music is show people something that is imperfect and still beautiful, something that is not like anything they have ever heard before but still compelling and evocative. I intend it to be something that vibrates them to the centre of their being and helps show the beauty of their own imperfections, and thereby, maybe, help them come to understand and accept the imperfection of everything.


Music is life, music sustains me. The feeling I get when I sing is like a narcotic and it causes me to want to do it more, and with more people.


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