Cree singer to perform anthem in three languages before Habs/Leafs game
'Huge step towards reconciliation,' says Pakesso Mukash of Whapmagoostui, Que.
A composer, DJ and "huge" hockey fan from Quebec's most northerly Cree community will perform Canada's national anthem at Montreal's Bell Centre before Saturday's game, in East Cree, French and English.
Pakesso Mukash has been busy translating the lyrics into his language, and trying it out on his baby girl.
"I've been singing it to my daughter every night for the last three weeks, and thankfully she's not sick of it," said Mukash. "She actually does fall asleep to the anthem every night."
When he was first approached about performing the anthem, "obviously I didn't believe it," he said. But as plans firmed up, the Montreal-based musician and former CBC North television host has been working on fine-tuning and memorizing the translations and practicing vocal warm-ups ahead of the big game.
"For me, it's the opportunity to represent my people and basically all Indigenous people across Canada," said Mukash, who won a Juno Award in 2011 with the group CerAmony. "It opens the door for one of the greatest franchises in all of sports history to recognize Indigenous people."
"That's a huge step towards reconciliation."
For the occasion, Mukash asked his niece, an artist named Nalakwsis, to make him a beaded pin with the Habs logo.
The finished pin includes the famous red, white and blue logo encircled in tiny orange leaves to represent Indigenous children.
"It was to put the intention again to remember the children and everything that our people have gone through," Mukash added.
Saturday's game pitting the Montreal Canadiens against the Toronto Maple Leafs will be broadcast on March 26 on Hockey Night in Canada starting at 7 p.m. ET.