Solo musicians are used to standing alone on the stage –– maybe with a guitar in hand or piano at the fingers. But lately, there’s been the surge of a new way to accompany the voice –– through the use of a loop pedal.
The little device, usually activated by a switch pressed by the foot, is a digital sampler that enables a musician to record a sound, then create loops and overdub, making it seem as if he or she has a backing band, or vocals.
Those wanting an example of a singer using a loop pedal in an inventive way may want to head to the Talkin’ Donkey coffee house in Vernon Tuesday.
Singing improvised a cappella (without backing instrumentation), Quesnel’s Doug Koyama uses a loop pedal to create his unique vocal effects.
He sings about life, peace, love and truth but you would never know it from the lyrics in his songs. The actual words are replaced by invented language and sounds that, at times, sound more like Spanish, French, Russian or Klingon rather than English.
“It’s very unique and compelling. I have seen the popularity of the work grow steadily in the last few years,” said Koyama, emailing from Wells, B.C., where he was part of the recent ArtsWells Festival.
Music and singing have always been a part of Koyama’s life, but never more than performing in musical theatre and in the shower. In 2009, he was introduced to improvised a cappella, and he soon developed the desire to sing in a multi-voice setting, which ultimately went to the use of a loop pedal.
Emitting improvised sounds, Koyama’s voice is recorded and looped. Bits of melody, harmony and vocal percussion are layered to create rich bed tracks over which soaring harmonies and verse and chorus are performed.
“Each song is completely improvised from beginning to end,” said Koyama. “Vocal improv is about connecting with others and the earth. When we sing together those vibrations resonate in all of us but also in the spaces between us and the space around us. We form a single chorus and the healing magic of song radiates out from us in all directions.”
Koyama is enjoying a busy summer performing at ArtsWells as well as the Smithers Midsummer Festival, Sweetwater 905, Arts on the Fly, as well as at farmer’s markets and cafés throughout B.C.
Earlier this year he was featured on CBC Radio’s North by Northwest, hosted by Cheryl MacKay, who said “When Doug Koyama enters a room you know it. His boundless energy, his warmth and enthusiasm are quickly evident. And then his music. Doug weaves sound with his voice and some looping technology. The music is mesmerizing, hypnotic and joyful all at once. He has a passion for singing and getting others to sing along.”
Koyama plays the Talkin’ Donkey, located at 3923 – 32nd St., Tuesday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Admission is by donation.