“And where does the heart get the strength from?” – from ‘Still Life’ by Dala
On May 9th, 2013 my mom and I found ourselves at the National Arts Centre to see Dala perform. My family was first exposed to the Canadian duo’s music several years earlier at a Stuart McLean Christmas show. They captivated us during their short performance then and during intermission we made sure to purchase one of their albums entitled Everyone is Someone. Soon after the song Levi Blues was on my ‘Top 25 Playlist’ – it appealed to my teenage wanderlust and nurtured my love for music. In 2013, my mom and I went to Dala’s show to celebrate Mother’s Day. By that time the album Best Day had appeared and our own copy was played throughout our drive home after the performance. That night was a wonderful mother/daughter bonding experience, one that we were happily able to repeat this past Friday when Dala played at the Shenkman Arts Centre.
Between 2013 and now a lot has happened to me and to my family. As I grow into myself my bonds with the people who love me the most, namely my mom and dad, have been stretched and strained but they have not broken. I would say that our connections to each other are actually stronger now than ever before because we have reached the point where we can rely upon each other instead of the typical child/parent reliance dynamic. My parents often look to me to keep them up to date on pop culture, even though they’re actually more current than I am right now. While Tumblr does a good job of keeping me in the loop for most things when it comes to music my parents have learned that my taste is eclectic and not always their cup of tea. My iTunes library contains everything from The Offspring to Loftland. The best thing about Dala is that my mom and I both enjoy their music. In fact, we both love it and our mutual love for the music brings us closer. We each have our favourite songs, I know which one (or two) will make my mom cry, and she remembers which one marked the beginning of my adoration for Dala.
In that theatre on Friday I felt transported to another place – a place where time stands still. The music itself was both ethereal and relatable, combined with the subtle sweetness of Amanda and the fiery wit of Sheila it was a night to remember. [NB: They came up with their band name in high school, something they advised the audience not to do at Friday’s show, but I think it’s a good name. The nostalgic quality of their sound suits the story of their name. *’Da’ is from Amanda and ‘La’ is from Sheila].
When I closed my eyes to savour the music I could almost believe I was in a friend’s living room listening to a jam session rather than a concert performance. To date, every Dala show I’ve attended has felt intimate and borderline sacred. The outside world seems to melt away when they play. But, they do not inundate their lyrics with fantasy. Even though they keep ‘the real world’ outside when they play they do not shy away from difficult topics. Growing up, growing older, falling in love, falling out of love, being alone, being lonely, and everything in between is spotlighted in their music. Except, unlike most modern music, they do not shove these topics down the audience’s throat, they introduce them slowly, bluntly, and openly the same way my best friend and I would approach these types of emotional topics. When I listen to their songs I feel like I am having a conversation with a friend and yet I also feel connected to something larger than myself. Whenever Dala plays over my headphones I feel connected to a larger tradition of Canadian music and strong female role models. So, thank you Dala.
P.S. Last year I chose to write my final paper for my Canadian Literature class on the lyrics of Dala’s song ‘Not Alone.’ I remember tweeting at the duo once when I was working on that paper and they tweeted back! I shouldn’t have been surprised since Shelia was an English student but I was surprised nonetheless. I was honestly touched by their devotion to their fans and their candour when they asked if my paper could count towards one of their degrees too. They are extremely genuine people who also happen to be blessed with extraordinary talent.