Sask. singer releases contemporary Cree language Christmas album
'Music and Cree have always been a part of my life,' says Falynn Baptiste
Falynn Baptiste, a Cree and Métis woman from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation, Sask., has early memories of family singing in both Cree and English that have left lasting impressions.
She said she was blessed to live next door to her grandmother.
"My late nôhkom was always singing, either it be through ceremony, powwow, or even just while she worked in the kitchen," she said.
"Music and Cree have always been a part of my life."
Now Baptiste is releasing a Christmas album in the Cree language, called A Cree Christmas. The eight song album includes songs like Silent Night, O Holy Night and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
"I have always been passionate about the language, in sharing the language and promoting the language," she said.
After doing some demos in previous years and posting them on YouTube, the response she got from listeners led her make an album of Christmas songs. She wanted to make a contemporary Cree language album that would appeal to young and old.
"It's very emotional music for me personally," said Deborah Charles, a fan of Baptiste's singing.
"It takes you back to a time with your parents or grandparents during Christmas, since some of them are not here any longer."
Charles said it's nice to see a young lady knowing the Cree language. She said Baptiste is often singing at local funerals and community events.
Currently Baptiste is on maternity leave from her position as a teacher. She said having a child has heightened her sense of responsibility to keep her Cree language strong, not only with her own child but with those that listen to her music.
When she began the process of preparing the album, Baptiste went to language expert Solomon Ratt for help. Ratt is from Stanley Mission in northern Saskatchewan, and has been an associate professor of the Cree language at the First Nations University in Regina for 30 years.
He helped with the translation and the written lyrics using standard Roman orthography (SRO). SRO is a standardized system using the English alphabet to represent Cree language.
"Falynn wants to write in SRO and that is the way we encourage people to write," said Ratt.
"That kind of attitude is so good to hear, because a lot of times people will write Cree any old way they want. It can get frustrating for us teachers when we are trying to get the language going."
For Baptiste, getting the translation right was a priority, knowing that many people who are Cree language speakers would be listening to the songs and buying the album.
"There are so many people fighting to save the Cree language, teachers and advocates and first language speakers and knowledge keepers," said Baptiste.
"You know it really is worth fighting for."