In the 3rd week of August 2018, Wamp staff Jeremy Emerson & Terry Woolf along with Pablo Saravanja from Artless Collective flew to the community of Délı̨ne, NWT. We were joined by the celebrated and talented Dene singer/songwriter Leela Gilday. The community of Délı̨ne is on the shore of the Sahtú or Great Bear Lake. It’s the traditional home of the Sahtú Got’ı̨nę,Leela’s people.
The usual commotion of unloading and loading a light plane in a northern community was further complicated by the amount of video gear we were hauling. Amid all this Leela was enthusiastically greeted by all her family and friends. Gear, friends and family piled into several pick-up trucks and headed to the Grey Goose Lodge. Once we were all sorted out we walked through the community scouting sites for our project. We quickly settled on a location beside the Prophet Ayah’s house now a community gathering place. There were two white teepees, an arbour and the prophets cabin on one side and the expanse of Great Bear Lake on the other. Leela was drawn to a nearby wild berry patch like a nail to a magnet. We all joined her and picked our fill.
We stopped in to meet with Leela’s Uncle, Morris Neyelle. Morris,a very well respected elder, was one of the Délı̨ne drummers and helped organize the other drummers who would be playing along with Leela’s song. Over tea and bannock, an approach was worked on that was culturally appropriate. It would seamless mesh the traditional drumming of Sahtú Got’ı̨nę, with Leela’s contemporary style of music.
The next day Leela and the Délı̨ne Drummers, Rocky Kenny, Miles Taneton, Andrew John Kenny, Leonard Kenny, David Modeste, Morris Neyelle and Samuel Tutcho gathered in Leonard’s Garage to rehearse the song Leela had composed the previous evening. The rehearsal gave a very different feeling to the term “garage band”.
The morning of the performance was greyer than we would have preferred with light rain squalls. We persevered, telling each other the rain would keep the mosquitos away. As we were setting up and testing our gear the drummers started a fire to heat their drumskins. The caribou hide stretches and sags in the cold and damp so heating the skins tightens them giving them the tone that is so distinctive. Once we had positions blocked and the musicians were happy with their gear we started the cameras rolling. It’s still an odd way to work for those of us steeped in conventional videography/filmmaking techniques. Everything is set up, we roll the cameras, cue the talent then all crew runs away and hides. We hid behind the teepees monitoring video and audio with our cell phone. In all, we did three takes. The drummers were happy, Leela was happy, the technical crew wanted at least one more take but that’s usual. Sometimes you just have to go with what you have. We hope you enjoy the results.