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Wishkaah: Understanding Our World Through Music

Why are we so connected to music? The music industry’s value is estimated to be over US$50 billion. With this industry’s massive size, it has to go beyond simple enjoyment or catchy tunes.  

Halifax-based musician Jesse LeGallais believes our visceral connection to music is because music is a form of communication through an emotive lens. The meta-study “Echoes of Ancestors: A Meta-Study Review of the Origins of Language and the Role of Music and Parable” and “Music and Early Language Acquisition” by Anthony BrandtMolly Gebrian, and L. Robert Slevc advocate that it is highly probable that music came before language in our development. The Neanderthal Flute, one of the oldest instruments ever found, is thought to be around 50,000 years old. Our predecessors’ fossils had the horseshoe-shaped hyoid bone in the throat in a similar position to modern humans. They would have had the physical ability to sing as we can over 530,000 years ago.

“Music is primordial,” says LeGallais, “Although we’re the only creature with grammatical, structured and reasoned language, a ton of animals have complex communication. Whales and birds are the most obvious. Ours would have been very similar and comes from an older time. We connect with it [music] because it allows us to express an interpretation of the world which is more fluid.”

LeGallais has deeply pondered the ancestral roots of music and what he wanted to express and use music for in his latest record, “I Think You, And Maybe Me.” The record explores new ways of making noise and facilitates unique ways of imagining possible futures, an independent release and a passion project with his wife, Tessa. The project isn’t only an exploration of pop music but a deconstruction of the genre under a capitalist system. Although LeGallais wanted to produce his project under the pop genre, he struggled with the idea, wondering if there was even a point. He believes the genre is heavily commercialized under a capitalist system.

“At its essence and heart, [pop] is still a communal understanding and expression of the world for people on the ground at that time see it,” he says. “You can take that back to the analogs of history and in every single culture. We sing, and we dance to try to understand the world we live in. With that, I felt a little more comfortable doing these songs.”

LeGallais’ subsequent struggle was figuring out what he wanted to express in this work. Climactic collapse, the rise of authoritarianism, late-stage capitalism and early-stage techno-feudalism were some of the themes LeGallais was playing with but didn’t want to be too overtly political as he felt that gets pretentious. LeGallais then wondered how he could use the sonnet sounds in a pop format in the sense of communal music enjoyed by a group and talk about what’s happening without being preachy. He applied those thoughts to “I Think You, And Maybe Me,” music as a tool to express an emotional understanding of our current highly complex world. Four tracks were created from those deliberations and one song experiment to express our profound exhaustion and sadness at our collective inability to face the challenges of our times: Resist, Restless, Rise, and Remains. 

The independent release was less of a choice. LeGallais didn’t question it, wanting his wife to sing these songs, as she has a stunning voice. “I Think You, And Maybe Me” was co-produced by LeGallais’ friend Jace Lasek, someone LeGallias had worked with before and trusted. “I had no interest in chasing labels. I don’t have any interest in that anymore.”

LeGallias says just to do it, as corny as that sounds, for anyone who wants to express themselves and their ideas through music. 

“Play what you have, play music. Get a cheap keyboard and guitar if you can get your hands on them. If you’re at school, go to the music room. Just do it, and do it in a fun, joyful way.”

Listen to “I Think You, And Maybe Me” on U Radio and find more of Jesse LeGallais’s work Wishkaah on Bandcamp.

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U Multicultural.

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