ERIN LINN MCMULLAN
Special to the Westerly
The pull of home is an undercurrent running through the music of Leela Gilday and Nick Sherman, both performing at Tin Wis on July 6 as part of PRAS Summer Festival 2019.
Gilday is from the fly-in community of Déline on the shore of Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories; Sherman, from Sioux Lookout in northern Ontario. Excited to share sneak peeks of their upcoming albums with a West Coast audience, these accomplished musicians were also generous in providing insight into how their connection to the land, the people and culture informs their music.
Gilday goes home “as often as a $1,600 plane ticket allows” and “also traveling to our other small communities in the NWT is a part of my regular life. I have a very large family there as my grandfather Joe Kenny had 21 children. I am close to several of my cousins and the land and the water always inspires me. I live on Great Slave Lake, which is Yellowknives Dene (Treaty 8) territory it is also very beautiful.”
While her music career takes her away from home, she describes the moment of performance as a sublime connection with her audience.
“It’s important to me to share my stories and songs as widely as possible,” she says.
“Dene drum beats and Dene love songs are a vein that run through my music and my album,” she explains. “On this new record I actually used tape of Dene drumming and some old love songs and sounds of the water, ravens, wind, that I taped myself in 2003 on a trip there. On that trip, I taped several elders singing Etsula (Dene love songs), most of whom are gone now. The sounds and the feel is woven through my music, since being Dene and being connected is in my blood, a large part of my identity.”
She is proud of her work on North Star Calling and on newly released single, Hard Ground co-written with Jadea Kelly.
“Being Indigenous allows for the songs to have an Indigenous perspective, intentional or not,” says Sherman. “I have a new song, ‘Northern Ghost’, that I’m particularly excited about. It’s a song that brings me back to when I would be out on the land with my grandparents and cousins when we were young. Hunting, fishing, and trapping was a way of life that we all shared then. I wrote this song to take me back there for a moment.”
While his musical foundation was forged on the trapline when his grandfather would bring his guitar north, Sherman adds “being allowed time to focus on the craft of songwriting” and to connect with mentors via a residency at Banff Centre for the Arts will stay with him forever.
“The songs are my own lived experience, connections with my own family and touch on issues that are unique to my area of far northern Ontario,” he says.
“I’m always excited to come and share my experiences and learn from other parts of this country. This country has a lot of healing and moving forward to do and we can only do it together.”
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