Maria Kasstan
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Maria Kasstan

Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


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1976, LP, "Maria Kasstan", The Boot Label (original songs)
2006, LP, "Songs for the Homeless Guy", Independent release
Streaming audio on



I was born in Toronto in 1950, to a pretty "Bohemian" family. Politics, religion and the arts were all fair game for irreverent discussion from my earliest recollection. As interesting as the people may have been [my mum ran a rooming house that was a home for, at various times, refugees, unwed mums, "illicit lovers" and, one year, most of the graduating class or Huntsville Collegiate,] I found animals and plants and other natural phenomena to be more interesting still. My childhood piano lessons [from Miss Edna Victoria Baggs, a painting "buddy" of A.Y. Jackson] were my introduction to making music, and though Miss Baggs despaired over my sloppy habits and irregular practising, I learned to love making music. By my early teens, my friends and I were singing folk songs, love songs, protest songs, and I seem to recall that many of us were pretty creative, inspired by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and lesser known geniuses like Phil Ochs and Buffy St. Marie. We hung out in Yorkville, playing coffee houses, [and the doorsteps of coffee houses, when they wouldn't let us in] and my craziest year was the one when I was the host and opening act at the Mynah Bird, which was really more of a circus than a coffee house. It became my job to introduce the fire eaters, the topless dancers [later, I would dance topless too] and the draft-dodging musicians. We even had Doug Henning hone his craft at the Mynah Bird.
I married my first [and only legal] husband in 1967 and had my first child, Emilie, in 1969, observing the lunar landing from the maternity ward in July of that year. Motherhood sure does change your priorities, so by the time I was on my second husband, and having my second child, Daniel, in 1974, I continued to be musically involved, but much less publicly. I recorded an LP on the Boot label in 1975, and then got on with my very complicated domestic life, which always included many cats and dogs and baby raccoons and fallen nestlings. Jim Calvert and I got together in 1979, and I had two more kids, Ian and Flora, with him, and we lived and loved and squabbled and gardened and modeled [for art classes] and walked about a thousand miles a year together for the next 25 years.
When, in October of 2004, Jim suffered a fatal heart attack on the bench in front of police headquarters in Toronto, I lost all my Earthly bearings. I also needed a vehicle to take out to the public, to tell his story. This became even more important because the police closed ranks and told me lies about the circumstances of Jim's death. I started singing at various indie music venues in Toronto, partly because the act of singing became the best way I could find to ease the ache, and partly because songs have always been a relatively unconstrained political vehicle. Whether it was the Underground Railroad that gave directions cloaked in music to guide escaped slaves to freedom, or old British broadside ballads that got some sharp digs in at the reigning monarch of the day, once a song is "out there" in the ether, and in the minds and on the lips of the public, it is VERY hard to call it back.
So, now I am a grandmother of three beautiful little girls, and, yes, I know how to make muffins and save seeds for heirloom tomatoes and I suppose I could even knit if I wanted to, but I have a big, sometimes nasty mouth on me and I don't intend to rein it in. I believe that songs are time machines, of a sort. They let us reach back to past wonders, and they can foretell the future in ways we may not realize till decades have passed. I have never been happy to be "stuck" in any particular TIME. Music is a reality that floats over the concrete time of clocks and calendars, and, like dreams and love, it can set you free.