Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Self described as ‘a folk rock door with bluegrass hinges,’ One Big Smile is a musical collective based in Ottawa, Ontario. Centered around the duo of John Lloyd and Kera Willis, the group’s focus is on spontaneity, community and music’s ability to uplift and transcend. With a full acoustic sound that borrows from midnight kitchen jams and impromptu backyard concerts, the core of One Big Smile is joined by occasional banjos, harmonicas, drums, crystal bowls, flutes and multiple guitars when their players are able to escape from their day jobs.
The band has a long history of playing for children and people with special needs. Previously known as Karmic Underground, they changed their name after Dean Verger, owner of Rasputin’s Café, remarked they turned the entire room into ‘one big smile.’ The rest, as they say, is history.
The main emphasis of the group’s shows is interaction; be it the subtle, non-verbal communication that takes place between audience and performer, or a handful of children who are invited up to sing into the mikes, request their own songs, or tap out a rhythm on a drum. In 2004 John Lloyd began superimposing call-and-response Sanskrit mantras over the joyful, rock-influenced accompaniment of mandolins and guitars. With the addition of English lyrics, these songs have been added into the band’s regular material, and are played at regular Kirtan sessions around the city. With their distinctive original material and a repertoire that draws from folk and bluegrass traditions, Beatles songs, Disney movie soundtracks and rocked-up Kirtan chants, a show by One Big Smile promises to be full of surprises, split-second recognition, and moments of pure elevation as each song lifts and flies.