The Beatles are the most well-known band in the world.
Their sound is instantly recognizable and has the ability to cross languages and connect people.
For students at Allison Bernard Memorial High School in Eskasoni, Cape Breton, Canada, The Beatles’ song “Blackbird” is a vehicle to share their Native language Mi’kmaq.
This performance was a part of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, 2019.
A United Nations Observance that “aims to raise awareness of the consequences of the endangerment of Indigenous languages across the world.”
Mi’kmaq are First Nations people, and their native language is the Mi’kmaq language.
There are less than 11,00 living people who still speak the language, making awareness critical to its survival. In the video comments, one viewer writes:
“I’m a teacher in Surrey, BC, and I have a Mi’kmaq student in my class this year who was moved to tears by hearing her traditional language for the first time. Your video has launched her journey of self-discovery. You’re having an impact all the way across the country. Thank you. <3”
There is no doubt that Emma Stevens, the singer in the video, and her fellow students created a beautiful piece of music that touched many people across the globe.
With over 1.5+ million views on the video, Emma even received a shoutout from Sir Paul McCartney himself! “It’s a beautiful version,” he says as he lets the audience know Emma is in attendance at the Vancouver concert.
Emma’s singing is indeed beautiful, and the choice of singing “Blackbird” has given the video to reach people that may have never seen it.
There have been thousands of covers of this song, but there is something extra special about Emma’s version. Another commenter writes:
“What a wonderful way to bring the Mi’kmaq language to the world. The familiarity of the tune will open the doors for many impactful conversations, and we hope that we can be a part of the path of reconciliation!”
It is an incredible feeling to hear a song in a language you’ve never heard before but be able to follow along word-for-word.
The popularity of the song helps non-Mi’kmaq speakers appreciate the language that much more. Emma sings:
eskimatimu’sipnek nike’ mnja’sin.”
The Beatles’ music has spanned over continents and time.
Each new generation seems to discover The Beatles for themselves. In this time of uncertainty, it makes sense why people are continuing to find comfort in the decade’s old music.
In an interview with the Vancouver Times, David Metzer, a musicology professor at the University of British Columbia, said:
“The lyrics do take on a seriousness and bleakness that stems back to both that period of uncertainty of the war years but also that social upheaval taking place in the ’60s.”
Their music gives people hope and is common ground for people who might usually disagree.
It is only fitting that “Blackbird,” a song about persevering through hard times, is used to bring a language to others:
“Take these broken wings and learn to fly.”
The Mi’kmaq language is one of many languages that is endangered.
But with efforts from people like Emma and with a little help from her friends at Allison Bernard Memorial High School, the Mi’kmaq language will be heard.
To hear Emma sing, be sure to check out the video below.
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