Veteran Winnipeg musician stepping into the spotlight to record first solo album at 75

·2 min read
Ilena Zaramba says she's happy to be finally putting out her own album, after more than five decades of work as a backup singer. (Ilena Zaramba/Kickstarter - image credit)
Ilena Zaramba says she's happy to be finally putting out her own album, after more than five decades of work as a backup singer. (Ilena Zaramba/Kickstarter - image credit)

Well, it's about time!

A veteran of the Winnipeg music scene for over 50 years is working on her first solo album after spending years as a backup vocalist.

Ilena Zaramba has stood on stage alongside many of Canada's great musicians. Now, at the age of 75, she is working on her own passion project.

"I'm on so many people's albums. I don't know, I just I loved what I was doing and I just went with what was in front of me," she said in an interview on CBC Manitoba's Weekend Morning Show on Saturday.

Those musician friends are now making her album possible.

Submitted by Ilena Zaramba
Submitted by Ilena Zaramba

"I don't have money, so I approached different people that have agreed to to play and sing on it for free," Zaramba said.

"So many people, they're just so, so happy that I'm finally doing an album. They're really happy to support me in it so that I can do it; otherwise, I wouldn't be able to do it."

Zaramba is working with Canadian music producer Dan Donahue, and her album will feature Winnipeg bassist Ken "Spider" Sinnaeve of Streetheart, and Susan Lethbridge from Flin Flon, Man., whom Zaramba used to sing alongside in Graham Shaw's band, the Sincere Serenaders.

Former bandmates Shaw and drummer Gord Osland have flown in to help as well. Sincere Serenaders guitarist Gary Stefaniuk passed away in 2015.

This album is a long time coming.

She was born into a musical family. She often performed with her parents and siblings.

"There's a story about my mother having to get a piano before any other kind of piece of furniture because she insisted that we were going to have music in the house," she said.

Zaramba learned to sing by listening to vocal quartet from the 1950s called The Crew-Cuts.

"My singing teacher was the radio, absolutely," she said.

From there, Zaramba danced, sang and played the violin and bandura at the Ukrainian Labour Temple in Winnipeg, eventually moving on to grace more prominent stages across Canada in a folk trio with her brother in the 1960s.

At the time, she was engaged to be married and intended to go back to Winnipeg, but she made the brave choice to follow her dream and continue singing.

"I thought of my father coming to Canada from Ukraine when he was 18 and the courage it took him to do that. And for some reason, that inspired me to just keep going because I always wanted to be a singer," Zaramba said.

Zaramba's album is still in progress and there's no release date at this time.

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