WORDS Lin Stranberg X Photography LIA CROWE
The audience is mostly young, but the music and intentions are very broad-reaching,” says Ginalina, a Toronto-born Canadian-Taiwanese singer-songwriter, family folk musician and children’s author. Ginalina, a former industrial engineer in the healthcare sector, has lived and worked in Vancouver for more than 13 years. Her five albums and debut children’s book are inspired by nature, family and the importance of community.
“I love to think of myself as a creative artist, being reflective and creative in the day-to-day, and exploring forms of connection and expression, whether through good conversation with a friend, cooking something new, day trips with my kids, songwriting or, now, children’s picture books. My journey of becoming an author feels like a natural extension of what I do and who I am. I love presenting ideas in different formats and I’m grateful for the opportunity to make art and to share it with others.“
Although Ginalina says her career in the children’s music world came as somewhat of a surprise to her, she has met with considerable success. Solo and with bandmates, she has toured six Canadian provinces and territories, as well as parts of Asia. This year, she won a Western Canadian Music Award for the second time as Artist of the Year in the children’s category. She’s also been nominated twice for a Juno award in the highly competitive category of Children’s Album of the Year, and three times for a Canadian Folk Music Award.
Her first book, The Mighty River, was inspired by a song she wrote called “Save the Mighty River,” in honour of World Rivers Day, from her album Small But Mighty. The book is being published in late 2020 by Peppermint Toast Publishing of Langley, BC. It was hand-illustrated (and vectorized) by American artist Kelley Wills. The text is designed as a lyrical read-aloud for young people and early readers.
She describes the book as “partly a narrative from the river’s perspective and partly a call to action. It’s a playful ‘I Spy’ game for children, a gentle introduction to river ecology and a beautiful invitation for everyone to engage in an environmental stewardship journey.”
The Mighty River introduces West Coast animals, shows rivers as special places in the natural world, highlights how they are integral to life, and offers unfiltered advice from children on how to protect our rivers. Ten per cent of book sales support conservation of vital waterways through A Rocha Canada Environmental Stewardship.
Nature is the most consistent and prevalent theme in her work.
“I have always felt happier and calmer in the outdoors. Here in Vancouver we are so lucky to be surrounded by rivers, mountains and trees on every side.”
Much of her early work was inspired by the weekly excursions she took with her kids in Vancouver’s Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Her Forest Friends Nature Club album originated from those family adventures, and went on to raise awareness and funds to support tree-planting initiatives through a local environmental conservation organization.
She is still spending as much time as possible outdoors. North Vancouver is a favourite place for hikes with her family, and as they live in Vancouver’s River District, they can often be found walking the Fraser River boardwalk.
Ginalina feels her music is about capturing the changes in her life, a way of musically documenting her life as it passes. Her family-friendly songs have evolved over her career, largely in stride with the growing steps of her own children, who are now seven, eight, 10 and 11 years old.
“When they were toddlers, I wrote simple songs about the sunshine, chirping birds and buzzing bees. My most recent album features songs about being brave, practicing teamwork and believing in yourself. I’ve also given myself the freedom to sing in Mandarin,” she says.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created enormous changes in everyone’s life, and it has made a hugely disruptive impact on the performing arts and creative communities worldwide. This year was to have been Ginalina’s biggest year yet. She was set to tour her recent album, Small But Mighty, with more than eight weeks of scheduled work, including international tour dates.
“It was difficult at first to see it all go,” she says. “I suffered the uncertainty and sadness that came with the pandemic, but I count myself extremely lucky that my family is healthy. One of us actually got very sick with the virus and it was a painful and stressful two weeks. With that perspective, it’s easy to appreciate everything after recovery.”
She has moved into a place of acceptance and gratitude, and these days her life is routine and full. Things are slower but she keeps busy; she homeschools her kids, plays the odd virtual show, reads and contemplates new things.
All the same, she remains driven to create. She is always working on new songs, explaining that whether or not they materialize as full-length albums matters less to her than the joy of being able to express herself creatively.
With the support of her publisher, she has already begun working on a second picture book. This time, she’s tackling a theme closer to her Asian heritage, and we’re looking forward to finding out more when it’s ready.