After a musical career which has spanned over 30 years and eight albums, Ron Kalmakoff returned to Canora for a CD signing meet-and-greet event at the Canora Public Library on October 5.
“I was really happy with the amount of people that turned out and I connected with so many folks I had not seen in years,” said Kalmakoff.
Born and raised in Canora by parents Alex and Violet Kalmakoff, his brothers Dan and Ken still farm in the area. Kalmakoff said he has been interested in music almost ever since he can remember, and his grandpa John Kalmakoff played a strong role in encouraging his interest in music.
“I remember I found him intimidating and at first I didn’t feel that he and I had much in common,” recalled Kalmakoff. “But he loved to sing and I started to sing along, but he said, ‘I can’t hear you,’ so I had to sing louder. I remember we sang hymns such as How Great Thou Art, Great is Thy Faithfulness and others.”
Kalmakoff grew to enjoy singing for audiences around the area. He recalls performing at the National Doukhobor Heritage Village in Veregin.
“I always had to sing Amazing Grace, and all the old Babas used to open their purses to show their support,” he said.
His first major concert was in Kamsack and like any young performer, Kalmakoff admits to being worried before the show.
“It was a cold winter night, and along with the other musicians in the band, I was concerned that no one was going to show up,” said Kalmakoff. “But about 10 minutes before showtime one of the guys looked out and said, “We’ve got to hold up, there’s a lineup out the door!” We had over 500 people attend that night and the concert was a success.”
That encouraged Kalmakoff to do several more concerts in Canora, Kamsack and around the province through OSAC (Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils).
As he built his career, Kalmakoff was encouraged to enter various competitions, including appearing on the Yorkton-based CKOS TV program Profile.
“By my early 20s I was doing a good deal of songwriting and I decided it was time to begin recording,” recalled Kalmakoff. “A friend recommended a studio in Rosetown, where we recorded my first album, To You From Me.”
In addition to Canada, Kalmakoff said he has released singles in Europe and a number of regions in the U.S.
As his reputation grew, Kalmakoff found himself receiving more radio and TV exposure.
“I sent my album to The Tommy Hunter Show and I was asked to perform,” he said. “Other performers on the same show included Charlie Pride and Reba McEntire, who was just starting her career at the time.”
At the age of 24, Kalmakoff decided he needed to leave his Canora home to pursue his musical career on a larger scale.
“I felt guilty about leaving, but it was the right thing to do. Dad said, “We’ll see you when you run out of money, so I thought, ‘I’d better prove him wrong.’”
Shortly after leaving Canora, Kalmakoff performed at Expo 86 and said he fell in love with Vancouver. He now lives in the Sunshine Coast, across Georgia Straight from Vancouver Island.
Kalmakoff’s music used to be considered “middle of the road,” but now he describes it as easy listening. His most recent album, Come To Me was released in March 2019, and was recorded over a period of two years.
“I took my time with it and hired the best people to make this project work,” explained Kalmakoff. “Michael Creber, who co-produced the album with me, said “there is such a lack of good quality easy listening music available right now.” He has worked with other artists including kd lang, David Foster and Andrea Bocelli, the opera singer.”
Kalmakoff likes to write as much of his own music as possible, and in recent years has enjoyed getting into creating and producing music videos. He and videographer Bryce Adams spent their time in and around Canora shooting video on his return home for a new project.
“My new single Ever Since You Went Away opens with the line, “Stood in the middle of a barley field,” said Kalmakoff. “So I asked my brothers, ‘Do you have a barley field I could use,’ and sure enough, they had one.”
Kalmakoff said he enjoys the various aspects involved in his career, including writing, performing, and recording his music, as well as the unique creative process involved in video production.
His family tree includes Doukhobor roots on both sides of the family, which is something Kalmakoff is emphasizing in his newer music.
“Because there are so few of us left, I feel I need to do more to keep the Doukhobor culture alive, especially on this trip back to Canora which included Veregin, Mikado and Esterhazy,” said Kalmakoff.
After growing up in the Canora area with the goal of a career in music, he encourages young Canora students with an interest in music to go after what they want.
“Everyone will tell you how to do it, but you have to figure it out on your own,” urged Kalmakoff. “Start with a local following and expand it from there. Use every way that you can to become known and expand your following.”
Many young artists hope to be signed by an agent and a record label, but Kalmakoff has chosen a different path.
“I turned down an opportunity with a label and chose to be an independent artist,” explained Kalmakoff. “A label and an agent will tell you what songs to sing and what opportunities to pursue. I chose to create my own path.”
Even though it’s been over 30 years since he moved away, Kalmakoff said he has many fond memories of Canora, especially the people and the support they gave him.
Fans can hear samples of the new album and Kalmakoff’s music, plus order the new CD, Come To Me, at ronkalmakoff.com.
He plans to be back in the recording studio in April of 2020 to begin recording new music.