BOW VALLEY – Good things come to those who wait, and for Canmore musician Michael Kragt, that wait is almost over.
Kragt is the bass player with the band Zebra and has been part of open mic nights in Canmore for the past five years, but his heart has been set on starting a new band and releasing an album with a heavier vibe since he began playing music back in the Netherlands in the 1990s. That band is Bawang, and that album is mixed and ready to go.
“I’ve been playing bass and doing live shows from the age of 19,” Kragt said. “I’ve played in dozens of different bands ranging from rock to funk to ska, ska/jazz and even electronic drum and bass, which was big in the early '90s.
“I was fortunate to play lots of live shows. The sold-out gigs led to festivals and appearances on radio and TV. I was lucky to be part of that all the time instead of being stuck in a garage somewhere.”
The stage experience and workload helped to hone Kragt’s skills as a musician, and it was fun to live the rock and roll lifestyle, but there was a next step in the process that he couldn’t quite get to.
“I was always missing something. I was looking for something more, and in the back of my head I had this concept for a heavier band where I wasn’t just the bass player in the background. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, it was this feeling I had, it just never worked out to get the right people together to play this music.”
Kragt went for years with that seed of an idea at the back of his mind, but eventually the touring life began to wear thin. He moved to Canada with his wife in 2006 and music drifted to the backburner for a while, but he couldn’t resist the lure of the stage forever.
The music scene in the Bow Valley is a tight-knit community and after participating in jam nights with Jake Posacki at Tavern 1883 and Samm Bailey at the Canmore Hotel, Kragt joined Zebra and an old idea jumped to the front of his consciousness.
“I started writing all these songs, and they came out of nowhere,” Kragt said. “I was really inspired, and they came one after the other. I was so excited because this is exactly the music I’ve wanted to play for all these years, and the next step was to find the people to play the music with.
“I found that to be really hard, because you want to have people with the right mindset, commitment and skill, and you want them to be able to add their own personal touch to it.”
After experimenting with a few lineups, Kragt eventually came together with Kyle Pullan and Gavin Boutet and the perfect power trio began to take shape, with Pullan on guitar and Boutet on drums. Bawang was officially born, but a debut album has taken time to pull together and release.
After playing some gigs to confirm the chemistry worked, Pullan moved back to Ontario temporarily. Upon his return in the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic altered the trajectory of the project once again by limiting the ability to perform in support of the permanent lineup and the record that was in the works.
The music falls in the alternative metal genre, and is peppered with heavy groves and punk, funk and sludge influences. Final mixes were completed by Northern Quarters’ Dave Crewe this past November, and artwork for the cover is close at hand, all that’s left is an easing of gathering restrictions so Bawang can be set loose on the world.
“We’re very patient, because we know what’s going to happen when we start playing again,” Kragt said. “People are going to find us, and we’ve decided that we’re not going to release this album until the very first day and our first gig when things open up again.
“I would want nothing more than to release it now and play it for people and have it available on Spotify, but I know it’s going to be so much better when we can actually get out there and promote it and have it go all around the world.”
The band has almost enough material ready for a second album even before this first one officially hits the streets, and although Bawang has taken a couple of decades to materialize, Kragt, Pullan and Boutet have big plans now that it’s here.
To keep up on developments with the band and the new album please visit them on Instagram at Bawang_powertrio and on Facebook at Bawang Power Trio.