Award-winning solo artists Jay Gilday and Leela Gilday attract attention whenever either of their names appears on a venue marquee here or in the south. This spring marked the first time in their decades-long professional music careers that the pair have fused forces as a duo.
The last stop on the six-community NWT leg of their tour lands at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre on June 11.
Their concert is titled Sechile Sedare, which in Dene Ke translates as “my younger brother, my older sister.”
“There is no word for just brother or sister in Dene Ke,” Leela explains. “Every person is defined in relation to their other siblings.”
With the artists’ postal codes separated by 1,500 km or more since Jay was 15 and Leela was 17, the pair enjoyed sharing the X1A prefix for a stretch after Jay moved his family North in 2021.
“I decided to move up to Yellowknife for seven months last year and it became very obvious that this was the time to work on something together,” says Jay. “We’re sharing some of those songs we’ve written over the past year and a half.”
The song-writing siblings began their collaboration with a joint writing residency through the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, with support from the NWT Arts Program
“It’s a different format than either of us have done,” says Leela. “We are both solo artists and we are both band leaders. To become a part of a duo – it’s a wholly new experience.”
Leela traditionally tours with a four-piece combo while Jay is equally at home fronting an eight-piece rock band or alone with just his acoustic guitar and a mic.
“I see it as enhancing and enriching my opportunities,” says Jay. “The stories we’re telling are different.”
Their repertoire for this tour, fittingly, finds inspiration in roots music and narratives that touch on their family history, a connection to the land and water, and the victories and vicissitudes of life’s journey.
“It’s an exciting, fun, awesome project,” says Leela. “It’s different touring with family.”
Sechile Sedare has entertained audiences in Norman Wells, Inuvik, Fort Simpson and Hay River since debuting May 31. The tour is scheduled arrive at the Salt’River First Nations Centre in Fort Smith on Thursday and conclude Saturday in Yellowknife at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre.
The performance also features original new solo work by both Gildays.
The show will be touring communities in southern Canada this summer and the siblings plan to record their music for a release in late 2022.