From Scarborough to the world: Dala’s music resonates

With four studio albums, a live album and a recent Juno nomination for the 2011 Roots and Traditional Album of the Year Group, Dala — comprising Scarborough’s Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther — is one of Canada’s premier two-piece, acoustic-folk musical groups.

Carabine and Walther met in a high school band class at the Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School in Scarborough about 10 years ago.

“We became instant friends,” Walther said.

A selection of Dala’s music
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“We wrote a song together, collaborated and finished it that very night and it was instant magic.”

Walther says she doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the best Canadian musicians and artists come from Scarborough.

“Out of a troubled neighbourhood, art is easily created because people are looking for joy,” she said.

“Scarborough has a bad reputation but anyone who lives there knows that it’s an amazing place with so many different forms of inspiration.”

The talented duo also draws on the likes of The Beatles for inspiration.

“We love The Beatles. That’s what really brought us as friends in the first place,” Walther said.

“It was our mutual obsession with The Beatles and their tight harmonies… It’s just really, really concise songwriting,” Carabine said.

“That’s what really got the ball rolling for us.”

The “secret songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s” such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell also influenced the group.

Carabine and Walther have travelled to many places in the world, including London and California, but the two still consider Toronto home.

“Sheila and I were talking about how we feel like citizens of the world in a way,” Walther said.

“But my heart is in Toronto. The more we travel, the more we appreciate our fabulous city.”

Dala let their pitch-perfect harmonies soar on acoustic folk-pop originals at the Acorn Theatre in Three Oaks, Mich., on Sept. 29.

Kim Clark, the Acorn Theatre’s artistic director, said it was a “great turnout for Dala.”

“It was a lovely show filled with beautiful voices,” she said.

The folk pair admits to taking a little bit of Toronto with them everywhere they go.

“We’ve noticed that when we especially perform in the states, we do bring a piece of our country with us,” Carabine said.

“We notice the difference when we meet new people and experience the different vibes of the town that we’re in… It’s then that we realize we’re really from Toronto and appreciate what this city has done to shape us.”

The city of Toronto also plays a huge part in shaping their music.

“The song Marilyn Monroe from our Girls From the North Country album has a line saying, ‘You’re standing by the subway and imagining you’re bigger than what you are,’” Walther explains.

“That’s a feeling of being an ordinary girl in an ordinary city but feeling like you have something extraordinary within you.”

Carabine and Walther return home to Scarborough in between their travels for inspiration.

“For anyone living in Scarborough with big dreams, just follow them,” Carabine said.

The name Dala comes from Carabine and Walther’s first names.

“DA from Amanda and LA from Sheila,” Carabine said.