A local family band is releasing a song and video featuring youth from Winnipeg’s North End who were disproportionally affected by the pandemic.
The Janzen Boys is a band made up of a father, John, and two of his three sons, Simon and Mick Janzen. The family from Manitoba lived in Japan for 10 years before returning to Winnipeg.
"My sister went over to Japan to be a teacher. She said it was kind of awesome so I followed her there. I had a friend who was working in radio in Japan who wanted me there," John says. "It was lots of fun and had three kids who grew up as the oddballs in Japanese culture."
Simon can still speak fluent Japanese and is a Raman lover. Once they came back to Canada the music-loving family found a new way to share it with the public.
"My dad has been doing this music thing for many years and when I was 12, I saw that the Forks was doing busking. Seeing this I thought it was super cool," says Simon, who is now 20-years-old.
Together John and Simon busked for a year and went on a tour busking up to Kelowna, BC, surviving on the money they collecting while playing. They've been doing The Janzen Boys since.
Mick had the idea for the family band when he was 4-years-old.
The Janzen Boys recently put out a cover of Bruce Cockburn’s 1984 hit 'Lovers in a Dangerous Time'.
"Honestly it started out as quarantine boredom. We always kind of knew this song and it was the next song up. Then we realized it connected to a lot of things going on right now," says Mick.
The boys recorded a video live in the Inner City Youth Alive (ICYA) gym at first and then recorded it in the studio.
"Working in the inner city you could see up close all the spinoff effects of the pandemic like isolation and disruption of regular life," says John, who has worked on staff at ICYA for the last 2 years.
The Janzen Boys, all three volunteers with the organization, are hoping to draw support for the ICYA ministry with this video on YouTube.
Describing some of the people in the video, Simon, bass player and the lead singer says, "You see Junior and Colin, who grew up close to the influence of gang violence, but through connection with Harvey and Andrew, have been finding some better paths."
Many of the staff at ICYA are funded through personal means.
"The problem is often kids who grew up ion the North end or who came to Canada as newcomers don't have a funding network. They don't have the aunties, uncles, and grandmas to send the cheque each month," says John.
Funds from the video will go to help fund outreach staff Melvina Guiboche, who herself escaped of life of gang involvement in the inner city, and John Vasili, who was forced to flee from South Sudan to Canada when he was four years old.