WATCH — N.S. teen finds her voice singing Beatles song in Indigenous language

Story by CBC Kids News • 2019-05-23 15:00

Video got almost 380,000 views in four weeks

Emma Stevens is hoping a YouTube video of her singing in her Indigenous language will show the world just how beautiful Mi’kmaq can be.

The 16-year-old from Eskasoni, N.S., recorded a cover song — Blackbird by The Beatles — that had been translated into Mi’kmaq as a class project.

In the four weeks since it was posted on YouTube, it has been viewed almost 380,000 times.

Emma said she’s excited to share her language with those who’ve never heard it before.

“It gives them a different perspective and shows them that our language is very beautiful," she said.

Emma Stevens and her music teacher practise in a music class.

Emma and her music teacher Carter Chiasson practise the song. (Submitted by Katani Julian)

Emma and her fellow music students at Allison Bernard Memorial High School recorded the cover as part of the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

That’s a United Nations initiative aimed at raising awareness of endangered Indigenous languages around the world.

Around 9,000 people spoke Mi’kmaq in Canada in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.

Mi’kmaq people traditionally lived in Atlantic Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and parts of Newfoundland).

Emma Stevens sings into a microphone.

Emma, who speaks Mi’kmaq, says the experience of recording this song has inspired her to learn more about her language. (Allison Bernard Memorial High School/YouTube)

Emma said she’d like to release a whole album in Mi’kmaq one day.

"I would love to do that,” she said, “but I think it would be better if it was all my own music."

Mi’kmaq language teacher Katani Julian got help from her father, Albert (Golydada) Julian, to translate the lyrics. (Submitted by Katani Julian)

The school’s Mi’kmaq language teacher, Katani Julian, did the translation, with help from her father.

She said lyrics like “take these broken wings and learn to fly” spoke to her as an Indigenous person in Canada.

"The song is just like the type of gentle advice that we get from our elders when we feel defeated and when we feel down," Julian said.

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