For Dene singer-songwriter Leela Gilday her songs are her stories.
She sees music as a powerful tool for healing, empowering, and communicating.
Gilday performs Oct. 4 at Harrison Memorial Hall, as a CD release for her fourth full-length album.
“I think of my music as soulful aboriginal folk roots,” she tells The Progress. “It has lots of traditional influences but a contemporary sound.”
The Juno winner has played Harrison a couple of times but this is the first time as a part of a concert series.
Gilday been singing since she was a baby, on stage by the age of 8. She has a music degree and has gigged in every province and territory in Canada and around the world.
“I’ve never considered doing anything else as a career because I truly love what I do: music is a powerful tool for communication, healing, reaching and empowering people.
Harrison Festival Society invited Gilday to open their 26th Season of Performing Arts.
The Dene artist is flying herself and band into Vancouver from Yellowknife, Winnipeg, and Ottawa, just for the Harrison show.
“She really embodies her songs.” says Harrison Festival Society Artistic Director, Andy Hillhouse. “Her raw honesty and emotion resonates powerfully with the audience.”
Gilday strives to make that all-important connection with her audience. Whether it’s an anthem for the oppressed, or an upbeat song about mortality, she infuses her songs with a sense of humour as well as a sense of social justice.
“Her singing ranges from tender folk ballads, to R&B and gospel stylings, to chill-inducing chants inspired by Dene song,” says Hillhouse.
She titled her new CD, Heart of the People.
The Progress asked her why she named it that.
“I chose ‘Heart of the People’ as the title and central idea for the album because I believe culture, connection to the land and to each other is preserved through the stories we tell over and over, like a heartbeat,” she wrote by email.
“These songs are our stories.”
The CD has some “amazing tracks on it,” she confides, “celebrating our connection to the earth, honouring the missing and murdered aboriginal women in this country, celebrating themes of life and love in the north.
“It is my best yet, and I am proud to say that it features guest tracks from Dene drummers from the NWT, as well as a guest track from my good friend Tanya (Tagaq) Gillis, who recently won the Polaris prize.
“We are very very excited to come to Harrison to play a full evening of songs from the CD at the special Memorial Hall venue.
Her four-piece band featuring Jason Burnstick (guitar) Paul Yee (bass) and Elliott Polsky (drums), has toured festivals and concert halls through every province and territory in Canada.
Gilday has many national awards including a Juno and Western Canadian Music Award for her second album Sedzé. She was named Aboriginal Female Entertainer of the Year (2011) by the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards, and was the Musical Director for the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards Finale (2012, CTV).
Leela Gilday, Oct. 4, Memorial Hall, tickets $22, www.harrisonfestival.com, by phone at 604.796.3664 or in person at the Ranger Station Art Gallery in Harrison and Agassiz Shoppers Drug Mart on Pioneer Ave.