Why music comforts us during trying times

Current and former N.W.T. musicians weigh in on the power of music, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic

Current, former N.W.T. musicians weigh in on the power of music during the pandemic

Singer-songwriters G. R. Gritt and Leela Gilday say music brings people comfort because it's something that's been with humans for so long. (Jen Squires/Shawna McLeod)

Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint exactly why you love a song. 

Maybe it's because of the screeching guitar solo at the bridge, or the shivering harmony throughout. Or maybe it's because of the person behind the music, or their lyrics. Or maybe, as some current and former N.W.T. musicians put it, it's because music is an innate part of us.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of musicians — both professional and hobbyist — have been sharing their performances online; getting together in person for concerts is no longer an option. That sharing and connection became even more apparent in a Facebook group after the mass shooting in Nova Scotia in April.

"Music is so powerful because it's something within us all," said G. R. Gritt, a singer-songwriter formerly of N.W.T. and now based in Sudbury, Ont.

It's not just a distraction. It really feeds me.- Leela Gilday, Yellowknife singer-songwriter

"It is something that is in our DNA ... and it's something that we've always used in ceremony for celebrating, for mourning, for travelling and we remember that."

That's why they weren't surprised to see the amount of people sharing cover- and original-song performances online. 

"Even though we're apart, it's a way for us to still come together in the ways that we've always come together," Gritt said.

Gritt, who is also one of the founding members of Juno-award-winning band Quantum Tangle, has done a number of online solo performances since the pandemic began — partly because it's a way many in the industry must quickly adapt their businesses.

'The arts is really thriving'

It's something award-winning Yellowknife-based singer-songwriter Leela Gilday, who's also done live performances during this time, is trying to learn, as well. 

"It's been a very, very challenging time for me," Gilday said. She says it's emotionally trying, especially when her main source of income — concerts, like many musicians — suddenly comes to a halt.

But for her, music is a comfort too. Not necessarily writing and performing it, but listening to it.

"I think it's really telling that the arts is really thriving right now even though our industry is feeling the hit," she said. "But as creators, as musicians, I've watched more live music in the last month than I have in probably the last year.

"It's not just a distraction, it really feeds me. And I think a lot of people respond to that. And, you know, I think it's one of the most powerful things that unites us and that can resonate with everyone."


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