by Jasmine Sikand
Calla Kinglit spent most of her childhood exploring different places around the world. She has ventured to various countries in Africa, including places like Zimbabwe and Egypt, for a total of seven years. While she was attending an international development university program in Toronto, she also had the opportunity to study as a researcher in Cameroon.
She has spent the last three years living in Whitehorse, and she thinks she’s there to stay. “This is the first place I’ve ever lived where I haven’t felt like I necessarily have to move.”
In Whitehorse, Kinglit found home in the wilderness and the creative individuals surrounding her. There are creative people in bigger cities, but Kinglit says she recognizes what it takes to survive in that environment. “There are so many other things they have to do to keep afloat. The materializing can be distracting,” she says.
“Here, you have wilderness. Everywhere you look there’s something inspiring. You have a community of people who figure out a way to do what they want to do even if it’s weird. It’s a very cool place to live in that sense.”
MUSIC & THE NORTH
Kinglit recalls her mother, a music teacher, guiding her and her siblings' music when they were younger. “I started writing songs when I was about nine. I just enjoyed it and how it made me feel,” she says. “If I was struggling with something and wrote a song, it would make me feel a lot better.”
When she went to pursue a career, she realized international development could be very deconstructive. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but she says there are other ways to help her community or the larger world, one of those being through her music.
“I decided to take those aspirations of a development worker through a different avenue.”
Kinglit realized that the feeling music gave her when she was nine and struggling with something was a feeling others could relate to and be helped by as well.
Her music is about the human journey. It uses metaphors to incorporate the surrounding wilderness into her lyrics. “When you think about the journey of just living your life and encountering certain experiences you can find examples of it in the wilderness. Grace could be the constant flowing of the rivers. They never stop flowing.”
Kinglit's love for the wilderness is mutual. “I feel really welcomed and supported here.” She says there is a benefit in having support from other musicians around her. It is a less competitive industry than what a big city could offer.
She also finds perks in talking to fellow northern artists because of the similar connection to environment. Casual conversations and connecting at a human level is much more easily attainable.
“I haven’t figured out quite how it’s going to work, but I feel like there’s a way to stay in the north,” she says. She hopes the Yukon will continue to grow as an exporter of interesting music.
“There’s so many values that shape your career aspirations like in terms of music. But I think the way that it works for musicians up here is if you’re focus is on the journey as opposed to the end goal, and if you are a journey-focused individual, you will love it because you’ll have the wilderness and the day-to-day things that are really enriching. It may mean your career’s a little bit slower, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing necessarily.”
Kinglit has attended the Atlin Arts & Music Festival before, but never before as a performer. In fact, this is her very first festival -- ever. She loves Atlin, so much so that whenever she visits she has to convince herself not to pack up and move there.
Already being familiar with the festival, the people, and the little, sweet town, performing in Atlin was the best-case scenario for Kinglit. She says she feels the most comfortable starting her festival experience in a place she already knew.
Her next stop is at the Dawson City Music Festival. With her album release coming within the next couple of months, she says she hopes next year she can branch out of the territory and do festivals elsewhere.
In terms of being a non-Indigenous person living in the North, Kinglit says coming up to the Yukon was a breath of fresh air.
Her experiences in Ontario, where she grew up. and more recently in the Yukon, have allowed Kinglit to witness both isolated Indigenous communities and integrated ones.
“Here, there’s so many First Nation governments that have so much power are doing incredible things,” she says.
This can even be seen at Atlin Arts & Music Festival. She pointed to the Whitehorse-based Dakhká Khwáan Dancers, who performed on the opening night of the festival.
“Their work is the forefront of what reconciliation looks like and it’s because it comes from the heart,” she says. “There is an open sharing between their audience and their music.”
“It makes me proud to live here and know people who are themselves and are celebrated for it.”