Juno artists perform at ACT

Kinnie Starr and Leela Gilday perform Sunday at the ACT in Maple Ridge.

Kinnie Starr and Leela Gilday

Kinnie Starr and Leela Gilday

Juno-award-winning artists Kinnie Starr and Leela Gilday will be sharing the stage at the ACT this weekend.

The soulful music of singer/songwriter Gilday will be balanced by the smooth original grooves of her long-time friend, hip hop artist Starr.

Gilday, a Yellowknife native, studied opera at the University of Alberta and taught herself how to play the guitar after moving to Toronto.

Although her first love was classical music, she gave it up and started writing her own songs.

“In classical music, most of the music that you’ll sing, especially as a student, is written by European white men, long dead. So I wasn’t really hearing my own creative voice echoed in the music that I was performing,” explained Gilday.

Becoming a song writer fulfilled her desire to tell her stories.

“Stories of the north, stories of the Dene, stories of being a Dene woman in the south. All of those things, aspects of who I am,” Gilday added.

Given her native heritage, she has written several songs about murdered and missing indigenous women, racial discrimination, the history of residential schools and other serious topics.

She also loves life and loves to laugh.

She writes about the beauty of the north, as well.

“It’s stunning and the land is quite powerful. You really get a sense of your place on this earth if you are out in the middle of the bush or out on the lake and there is not a human in sight for hours and hours surrounding you.”

Gilday released her first album in 2001 and is now working on her fifth, which she hopes to start recording by the end of the year.

Gilday has been nominated three times for a Juno award and in 2007 won Aboriginal Recording of the Year for her second album, Sedzé.

She will be performing at the ACT with her full band.

Calgary native Starr is a self-taught rapper who learned her craft while working on graffiti art, stencil and collage work, street art and screening shirts for punk bands.

“I was just entertaining myself. I was just constantly rapping,” said Starr, who was quickly ushered into the music world in 1996.

Starr will be performing a combination of electronic dance music style beats with poetry and rap.

Starr is an intuitive player and thinks the best descriptions of her music are the way other people describe it.

“I’ve been rapping my entire career and it’s so rare that people will recognize, even other rappers, will recognize me as a rapper,” said Starr, who believes she is labelled differently because she is a woman whose rapping style is not as hard as her peers.

“A man who would be rapping with the same content and the same amount of love towards justice and big ethical concepts would be called a concept rapper and I would be called spoken word,” she continued.

But with seven albums under her belt, a Juno for Aboriginal Album of the Year in 2010 for Digging Roots and a nomination in 2004 for New Artist of the Year, Starr’s talent has allowed her to travel the world.

Starr talks about family, race, love and identity with her music.

“I don’t just touch on [those topics], I turn them over like rocks in a garden. I push them away, I pull them back in. That’s what I write about. I’ve been writing about it for 20 years,” said the musician who is proud of her Mohawk heritage.

“I’m Mohawk on my mom’s mom side and on my dad’s dad side,” explained Starr, saying that the Mohawks blended the most with new cultures.

One of her life’s works to understand what it means to be Canadian.

• Kinnie Starr and Leela Gilday will be performing at 7:30 p.m. on April 24 at the ACT, 11944 Haney Place, downtown Maple Ridge. Tickets are $32 for adults, $28 for seniors and $15 for youth.

For more information, call 604-476-2787 or go to www.theactmapleridge.org.