Feature

The call of Leela Gilday

There’s a warrior on the line – and Canada’s listening.

Yellowknife-born Dene singer-songwriter Leela Gilday is chatting with Carole Off on CBC Radio‘s As It Happens. She’s fielding congratulations on winning Female Entertainer of the Year at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards.

Take note of that voice, if you haven’t yet. What you hear on the airwaves is what you get in a live show —or for that matter, offstage after the show. The voice on the line is clear, conversational and cheerful, but measured, thoughtful, and right on point. Gilday laughs easily and often, acknowledges her appreciation of her success (“It’s pretty cool!”), and remembers her fans, her good fortune, and her fellow artists graciously.

But it’s in the mention of her anthem, “Calling All Warriors” that Gilday’s voice strikes its strongest tone. Reminding a national audience of the terrible numbers of missing and murdered Aboriginal women whose song goes mostly unheard, Gilday is a warrior herself. Anyone who’s heard her play this song for an audience will know the powerful effect of this haunting chant: “Calling all warriors… keep her in the light…”

Gifted though she is as a songwriter and recording artist, (with a Juno, three Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, and two West Coast Western Canadian Music Awards to her credit among many other honours), Leela Gilday is a transfixing live performer. It’s not just the melodies or the often tough subject matter. Gilday engages audiences entirely, easily getting them to sing along from moment one by pure force of character.

That force of character emerges in her voice, speaking or singing, piercing or pleading, laughing or lamenting.

Whether confessing that she misses her hair dryer at a folk festival, honouring her ancestors in a hotel room showcase, or proudly announcing on national radio that she’s learned to tan a moose hide, Leela Gilday’s voice comes straight from the heart.

It’s the voice of a winner; the song of a warrior.

That’s the call of Leela Gilday.

 

Photos courtesy LeelaGilday.com

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2 comments

  1. avatar
    Joelle May 10 November, 2011 at 14:41

    LOVE Leela, so much. Discovered her last year at the WESTERN CANADIAN Music Awards (no longer the West Coast Music Awards, hasn’t been for years, it stretches out from BC to MB and up to YT & NWT!)

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