Children’s festival singer has surprising alter ego

Kevin Hampson
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“I’m a little piece of tin, nobody knows where I have been; honk-honk, rattle-rattle, clang-clang, boom-boom.”

Children clapped, stomped and sang along on Saturday as Bea Kobialko strummed her guitar at the Children’s Festival in Waskesiu at Prince Albert National Park. For parents, the scene might have evoked memories of a popular entertainer who used to crawl through a log and sing to birds.

But there is another side to Kobialko’s musical career that is far removed from Fred Penner. Her CD, Whiskey Scars, carries a “Parental Advisory” label and features songs about hard travelling and heavy drinking.

“It’s really not a kids' CD,” she said.

Kobialko’s folk-country style was inspired by “all the old outlaws,” she said. “Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash.”

A restless soul has given the singer a deep well of experience to draw from.

“I left home when I was 15 and I thought I knew it all,” she said.

The young rambler spent the following winter in Moose Jaw in a camper trailer, hitchhiking to the Kalium potash mine every morning to wax the floors. Her only possessions were a space heater, a sleeping bag and two tapes: Kris Kristofferson and Bob Seger.

Had she lived in the ‘30s, one imagines that Kobialko would have ridden the rails across the country; as it happened, she roamed north instead.

She’s worked in the kitchens of diamond drill camps in the Yukon, the Arctic, B.C., Alberta and northern Saskatchewan, she said.

One of the songs on Whiskey Scars, Ole Healing North, is something of an ode.

“It’s about how much I love the North and its people,” she said.

I left home when I was 15 and I thought I knew it all singer-songwriter Bea Kobialko

At the children’s festival on Saturday, it was hard to tell that the smiling performer in the Parks Canada uniform was also a rough-and-ready country singer.

Her own song, The Skeeter Stomp, was as silly and fun as anything that Raffi has written.

“Slap-a-dy slap, clap-a-dy clap -- ‘cause that’s what we do when we’ve got mosquitos! --  it’s the skeeter stomp,” Kobialko sang.

The only clues of her alter ego, Kobi (that’s her stage name), were the Woody Guthrie-like touches in her songs and a gravelly laugh that evokes the image of a smoke-filled country bar.

The singer performs in such venues, along with her brother, mostly in Moose Jaw and Regina, she said. But she’s also been writing kids' songs for a long time.

“Kids are the easiest people to entertain,” she said.

“They like to clap and they like to be silly, and I enjoy that,” she added. “Sometimes (adults) get way too wound up, eh? We should really be clapping and singing more.”

When Kobialko came across the Parks Canada summer gig on the internet, she jumped at the chance.

The qualifications for the job were an unusual combination; a singer-songwriter with a natural science background.

Kobialko has a geography degree from the University of Saskatchewan; growing up on a houseboat on Kenosee Lake in Moose Mountain Provincial Park made her love the outdoors, she said.

Kobialko is planning to do a kids' CD by next spring.

Organizations: Parks Canada, University of Saskatchewan

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Waskesiu, Prince Albert National Park Yukon Arctic Alberta Northern Saskatchewan Kenosee Lake Moose Mountain Provincial Park

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Recent comments

  • Angie Gray
    July 22, 2013 - 16:52

    Very Nice story! Awesome to get some recognition for such a fabulous talent! :)

  • Wanda Hutchinson
    July 22, 2013 - 12:27

    The Story on Bea was great, When she got that job she was so happy it is everything she loves to do , sing, be outdoors and is a people person. Bea has had her ups and downs,its great to see that beautiful smile on her face again doing what she loves.. I remember when she learned how to play guitar in the basement of my sisters house her fingers would bleed but she never gave up she taught her . I have listen to her play and sing for years with her 2 brothers Deni and John . We had and still have great times together by the camp fire singing and dancing to her playing and singing ,, Great job Bea Love your cousin Wanda Hutchinson..