North

Midnight Shine highlights Cree language in video cover of Neil Young classic

Northern Ontario Cree band Midnight Shine has just released its latest video, adding a personal touch to Neil Young’s Heart of Gold by singing a verse in Mushkegowuk Cree.

Video for cover of Heart of Gold filmed in Attawapiskat

"The idea came to shoot the video in my canoe and just grab some friends and family and people off the street,” said Sutherland. Midnight Shine has just released video for cover of Neil Young's Heart of Gold, including a verse in Cree. (RoseAnna Schick/Midnight Shine)

Northern Ontario Cree band Midnight Shine has just released its latest video, adding a personal touch to Neil Young's Heart of Gold by singing in Mushkegowuk Cree.

"I thought you know it was a good opportunity … to do something different [and] sing a verse in Cree. Nobody else has done that with that song," said Midnight Shine's frontman and singer/songwriter, Adrian Sutherland.   

The United Nations General Assembly has identified 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, with a goal of preserving, revitalizing and promoting Indigenous languages around the world.

Midnight Shine is now an all Cree band. From left to right: Charnelle Menow - Norway House Cree Nation, Man.; Stan Louttit, Moose Factory, Ont.; Adrian Sutherland, Attawapiskat, Ont.; Zach Tomatuk, Moose Factory, Ont. (David McDonald)

Singing in Cree is something the band's bassist, Stan Louttit, says is important to their fan base in west James Bay and beyond.

"I often run into people just around the community in the corner stores or at the Northern [Store]. People say they really like the Cree and the songs," said Louttit, who lives in Moose Factory, Ont., but has family in several east James Bay communities in Quebec. 

The video for the Heart of Gold cover was shot in Sutherland's home of Attawapiskat, Ont. with a large part of it in the singer's own canoe.

"The idea came to shoot the video in my canoe and just grab some friends and family and people off the street," said Sutherland, adding it came together naturally.

"The children were excited, and they were always asking me when the video would be out," said Sutherland.

In October, Midnight Shine filmed the band's latest video for their cover of Heart of Gold in Attawapiskat. While there, lead singer Adrian Sutherland recorded a greeting for fans in English and Cree., in this video courtesy of RAS Creative. 1:15

Cree translation challenging

The band has released three albums so far, with the latest titled "High Road" and including the cover of Heart of Gold. Sutherland says that translating the term "heart of gold" into Cree was challenging.

"When [Neil Young] wrote the song, I think he was saying 'somebody who is good hearted,' so that's how I came up with the Cree verse," said Sutherland.

Midnight Shine has also added a new drummer: Charnelle Menow, from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, making it an all-Cree band.

"I feel proud. I feel pretty good to me to be able to be traveling with my fellow Cree brothers and sisters. We feel like we're family," said Sutherland.

Sutherland says the band has plans to sing more songs in Cree and also hopes to collaborate with other Cree artists.

Midnight Shine's Adrian Sutherland in Attawapiskat in October. The video for the band's cover of Heart of Gold, was filmed entirely in the northern Ontario community. (RoseAnna Schick/ Midnight Shine)

For Stan Louttit, Midnight Shine's bassist, the group also has a lot to contribute to reconciliation efforts that are happening in Canada at the moment.

"A lot of our songs are about connecting with people," said Louttit. "I think our music is coming at a good time, where we're trying to bridge and connect … between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in a more universal way."

With files from Susan Bell