A Born Singer

I should know better than to schedule these interviews for Thursday afternoons, but luckily Seki, a Whitewater Wednesday Jam Night regular, understands. We reinvigorate ourselves with mochaccinos at Baked Café and get down to talking.

We start with her name: “Seki is fine,” she says. “No one else has my name. It’s actually my middle name, but I’ve been called Seki since I was born.”

A young performer, Seki’s life has been infused with music. “Since the womb, I’ve been listening to Van Morrison and the Doors,” Seki recalls with a laugh. “Apparently I had piano lessons at three and I did that for a couple of years. Maybe it had an influence on my brain.

“I played violin when I was eight,” she says, narrating where her passion for performing comes from. “I saw a lady on TV wearing a beautiful taffeta dress, it was huge and she was doing a violin solo, with a cellist playing with her. There was a big spotlight on her. I thought it was super-cool and I said, ‘I want to do that.’

“Then I picked up the guitar and realized I could sing and play at the same time, but I couldn’t when I played violin.”

She credits her love of music to her very supportive parents: “They both play a little guitar. I wouldn’t have picked up the guitar if it wasn’t for my Dad. I play his guitar – in fact I kind of stole it from him.

“My Mom has a very large record collection,” she explains, getting more animated as she sips her mocha. “Growing up in Tagish, there wasn’t a lot to do for kids, so she’d put on records and we’d listen in the dark.

“I don’t know why it had to be in the dark, it was just something she’d like to do. She’s a huge Bob Dylan fan.” This explains Seki’s passionate singing on Dylan’s Sara and One More Cup of Coffee.

“My Dad likes reggae, blues, The Band. One of his Bob Marley vinyl records, Kaya, is now mine. It was the first Bob Marley I ever heard. And 12 years later, I was at the place in Jamaica where Bob Marley is buried.”

Seki performs with a quiet but commanding voice brimming with emotion.

“Really?” she says, laughing and finishing her mocha. “The only voice training I ever had was from Barb Chamberlin. My parents got me four voice lessons from her for my birthday one year. I didn’t have any money to pay for any more, but she really wanted me to continue. So I made a deal with her: I pulled nails out of floorboards, mowed her lawn and raked it for lessons.”

Peggy Hanifan, the host of Whitewater Wednesday and Saltwater Saturday jams at Flipper’s Pub, recalls Seki from her school bus. “She was one of my favourite students on the bus,” Hanifan says. “She’d always have a guitar, but I didn’t realize how talented she was until she started performing at the jams.”

“Peggy is an awesome school bus driver,” Seki says. “I will forever love Peggy. I’ll never forget the way we started talking about music. It was winter and, for some reason, I was the only kid on the school bus and I had my Dad’s guitar. Peggy asked if I played, and I said I’d just started. She told me that when I was of age, I’d have to go to Whitewater Wednesday. I think she must have thought I was older than I was.

“Without Peggy, it never would have occurred to me to go on stage and play. She’s totally inspired me. She’s very welcoming and supportive. I don’t know if she realizes it, but she is. She makes it easier to go over there. Everyone loves Peggy.”

Join our the Whitewater Wednesday group on Facebook to see a video of Seki playing Natural Mystic and come out to Flipper’s Pub on Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons to see her perform live.

Five things you should know about Seki:

  1. She loves to busk. In Kelowna, BC, she made enough money busking to get the van she was living in out of impound.
  2. She has no patience for chauvinism.
  3. She has an aunt who lives in Burundi with a chimpanzee.
  4. She grew up in a strict Baha’i family.
  5. If she could, she would live off Jamaican jerk chicken for the rest of her life.

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