Arts

Why Leela Gilday is looking for someone to mentor


Dene artist Leela Gilday is looking for a young, female, Dene singer who lives near Yellowknife to take under her wing.

Gilday told Cabin Radio she was inspired to take on a mentee because of the lack of Dene, female artists in the music industry.

“Who are the Dene women artists that you know of?” she asked.

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“I’m basically one of two Dene women artists from the NWT that people go to. And I know a few young Dene men who are up-and-coming performers, and that’s great, but there’s not very many young women.”

In a Facebook post on Friday, Gilday said young, female, Dene singers looking for mentorship in Yellowknife, Edzo, Behchokǫ̀, Dettah, and Ndilǫ should message her.

In five hours, she had received 15 responses.

“I thought I’d put it out on Facebook and I have 5,000 friends and lots of connectivity, so I figured that I would get around the region quickly. And it has,” she said.

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“I’ve had quite a bit of response so far. In fact, an overwhelming amount of response.”

With more free time on her hands – and having committed to supporting women in music after winning the Socan Foundation’s Her Music Award in February – Gilday said now was the time to find a mentee.

“I’m not touring right now, so I’m available to share my skills with somebody, and this kind of mentorship is better done in person,” she said. “So it makes sense for me right now. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

‘We have really unique stories to tell’

Gilday believes a lack of such mentorship is one reason for the low number of female Dene singers.

“I look around and see quite a few young Inuk girls who are making music and getting out there, but I don’t see the corresponding number of young Dene women, although we have just as much talent here in the NWT,” she said.

“We have really unique stories to tell and a lot of talent in the NWT, and everybody can benefit from mentorship.”

Gilday helped to establish the NWT’s music industry association and sat on its board for seven years.

“This is not a sudden change of direction for me,” she said.

“It’s just an extension of that work of trying to help support building our industry, and also just help to bring the voices of young women – and especially Dene women – forward.”

Gilday believes people are starting to value a diversity of voices in the music industry.

“We’re in a time where I think more people are waking up to how important it is,” she said, “especially from a First Nations perspective.

“As an artist I have a particular platform, a very broad platform, to share those stories and these beliefs and that worldview.”

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