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Leela Gilday [windspeaker confidential]
Windspeaker: What one quality do you most value in a friend?
Leela Gilday: I value many different qualities in my friends, including humour, openness, trustworthiness, compassion, willingness to take risks, honour, and candor. But the one quality my best friends hold in common is kindness. Having a kind heart is apparently what I value most in a friend.
W: What is it that really makes you mad?
L.G.: Injustice of all sorts—Environmental, personal and wartime, mostly.
W: When are you at your happiest?
L.G.: When I feel I am walking my heart path; doing what I’m meant to do and existing where I’m meant to be on this earth.
W: What one word best describes you when you are at your worst?
W: What one person do you most admire and why?
L.G.: This is a tough question. I admire many thousands of people. So if asked, I would have to narrow it down to a category of people. I admire the good mothers in this world, who love their children more than life itself, and who are responsible for raising the good citizens of the world.
W: What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to do?
L.G.: Break my own heart.
W: What is your greatest accomplishment?
L.G.: Being true to my own calling.
W: What one goal remains out of reach?
L.G.: Most of these goals are physical. For example, I will probably never be a world champion snowboarder. I’ve always wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, so hopefully I will be able to do that before I die.
W: If you couldn’t do what you’re doing today, what would you be doing?
L.G.: I have no idea. I’ve never been happy doing anything other than music, so I’d probably have to figure that out if and when that happens.
W: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
L.G.: Don’t forget where you come from, because it shapes where you go.
W: Did you take it?
L.G.: I think so; some days more than others.
W: How do you hope to be remembered?
L.G.: I hope that someday people will listen to my recordings and that my messages will still uplift and empower future generations.
Leela Gilday is a member of the Dene Nation and was born and raised in Yellowknife. A singer, songwriter and, most recently, a musical director for the National Aboriginal Awards Finale in 2012, in 2011 she won the Aboriginal Female Entertainer of the Year by the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards.
Gilday was immersed in music from a very young age and began her singing career at the tender age of eight. When asked about her musical influences growing up, she says, “Oh God, everything! When I was a little girl we lived in Edzo, which is a small community outside of Yellowknife. It’s a Tlicho community, and I lived there with my mom and my dad. My dad, who’s a white guy from southern Ontario, is a musician so he exposed me to a ton of different styles of music, including big band and symphony music. My mom really loved folk, like Bob Dylan-style American folk, as well as country music and some pop.
“Then of course we would always go to the tea dances, so I always had traditional music in my ears. The really broad range of styles and the fact that both of my parents liked to sing to me and sing with me, really gave me a wide palette of sound to draw from.”
She has released three CDs so far with the most recent in July 2010 titled Calling All Warriors. She is presently working on her fourth, as yet untitled, CD.
In the meantime Gilday has joined fellow performers Sylvia Cloutier, Nieve Neilson and Diyet to form a group called A Circumpolar Landscape. Laurel Parry, vice president of Culture and Ceremonies, Arctic Winter Games 2012, said of the quartet, “The best part of the concert is witnessing four strong solo artists function as an ensemble. Each voice is unique and the geography they represent is vast, but somehow harmony, synchronicity and unity prevail.”
Gilday offers of this endeavor, “You will hear songs about the love of the north, and how those places shape us; about lost love and strange love and hilarious love; about sisters’ strength and loss, holding on to hope; and about residential school and resilience… all in Greenlandic, Southern Tutchone, North Slavey, and Inuktitut, as well as English, and of course, the common language—music.”
Her music unites melody and lyrics and language rooted in her Northern Canadian heritage while embodying the essence of being Dene in an urban environment. From her home in Yellowknife, Leela Gilday has carved out an international award-winning career, with both a Juno and a Western Canadian Music Award for her second album Sedzé.
“We have long recognized her as a talented member of our nation,” said Dene Chief Bill Erasmus.
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