Phantom Power

Aaju and Matthew by Michelle Valberg © Michelle Valberg

A guest post by Tom Barlow. Photo by Michelle Valberg.

Music plays a major part in all of our lives—it influences how we feel, what we want to feel; it forms the emotional markers of our lives. The inclusion of music as a key component of Adventure Canada’s adventures is a unique and, I believe, integral part of the company’s philosophy of opening up our minds and spirits to the cultures and landscapes we visit.

Every culture in the history of the human species has had music as a central cultural touchstone. Many academic disciplines have ignored this remarkable fact for centuries. With modern developments in MRI technology, we have been able to look into our brains and see the effects of music on neural activity and other physiological processes for the first time.

The influence of music on the developing human brain and on human social interaction has spawned an exciting new branch of music-based research. Bestselling books like This is Your Brain on Music examine the power of music to profoundly affect our minds, our bodies, and our interactions with each other.

The inclusion of musicians on Adventure Canada expeditions not only entertains passengers; it also acts as a social passport to the various isolated communities we visit. Music allows conversation to begin where language leaves us disconnected; music conveys ancient stories and passes on traditional learning; it is the great unifier, the great common denominator, the heartbeat by which all people are connected.

Hearing Aaju Peter sing in Inuktitut as we approach Baffin Island, or Daniel Payne striking up a fiddle jig in a tiny outport community in Newfoundland connects us to those places in a magical, primal way. In turn, it connects those places to us.


Tom has been a writer and performer on the Canadian music scene for twenty years. During that time he has garnered three Juno Award nominations, a Canadian Radio Music Award nomination, and won the Canadian Independent Rising Star Award. His latest record, The Fire, is available now.