The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’ Sung in the Indigenous Mi’kmaq Language

To raise awareness of her native language, 16-year-old Emma Stevens sang a version of The Beatles’ 1968 classic “Blackbird” in the Mi’kmaq language, an Eastern Algonquian language spoken by nearly 11,000 in Canada and the United States. A member of the Eskasoni First Nation, the Nova Scotia student sang lyrics that were painstakingly translated by Katani Julian, a teacher who works in language revitalization. Julian told WBUR. “My language is very different from other ones.” “There’s a lot of syllables in ours. And there’s a lot of long words that translate into something really easy in English.”

You can find the lyrics below and the song above.

Pu’tliskiej wapinintoq
Kina’masi telayja’timk
tel pitawsin
eskimatimu’sipnek nike’ mnja’sin

Pu’tliskiej wapinintoq
Ewlapin nike’ nmiteke
tel pkitawsin
eskimatimu’sipnek nike’ seya’sin

ta’n wasatek poqnitpa’qiktuk

ta’n wasatek poqnitpa’qiktuk

Pu’tliskiej wapinintoq
Kina’masi telayja’timk
tel pitawsin

eskimatimu’sipnek nike’ mnja’sin
eskimatimu’sipnek nike’ mnja’sin
eskimatimu’sipnek nike’ mnja’sin


Boo-dull-ees-kee-edge wobbin-in-toq
Kee-na-ma-see dell-I-jaw-dimk
ess-gum-mud-dum-oo-sup-neg nike’ mn-jaw-sin

Boo-dull-ees-kee-edge wobbin-in-toq
ew-la-bin nike’ num-mid-deh-geh
ess-gum-mud-dum-oo-sup-neg say-ya-sin

Boo-dull-ees-kee-edge, lie-jaw-see
don wassa-deg poq-nit-ba’q-ik-tuk

Boo-dull-ees-kee-edge, lie-jaw-see
don wassa-deg poq-nit-ba’q-ik-tuk

Boo-dull-ees-kee-edge wobbin-in-toq
Kee-na-ma-see dell-I-jaw-dimk

ess-gum-mud-dum-oo-sup-neg nike’ mn-jaw-sin
ess-gum-mud-dum-oo-sup-neg nike’ mn-jaw-sin
ess-gum-mud-dum-oo-sup-neg nike’ mn-jaw-sin

via BoingBoing/WBUR


by | Permalink | Comments (41) |

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Comments (41)
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  • Steve says:

    Wow, so delightful! Beautifully played and sung. A complex language, this was difficult to do at all, let alone do so very well. Thank you!

  • Steve Gray says:

    Why, would someone butcher a classic song sung in English.
    To me that would be like taking a song of here language and trying to sing it in English, and how would it truly sound and would it even have the same meaning artistically.
    Too bad people just can’t appreciate the language songs are made and sung in.

  • Eleanor Anne Gregory says:

    Beautifully sung and beautifully played (guitar)

  • Paul C Cleland says:

    I remember the first time I heard this. I cut a college class because I had heard that this record was in the college book store. I spent the rest of the day listening to the whole album. This version is really beautiful. Thanks very much to all of the artists and translators who made this. Another very nice day for me, like the one more than fifty years ago. It is rich with memories.

  • Alejandr says:

    A good translation could be a nice piece of skill and art. Only if you are a single and narrow minded person, prefer to stay in the only place you know.

  • Miss Complicated says:

    Ethereal – and it made my synesthesia act up.

  • John says:

    Just excellent! 😀

  • Anya Achtenberg says:

    Somehow I bet the Beatles and their expansive hearts would have loved it.

  • Linn Pedersen says:

    So, you are saying that Leonard Cohen butchered “take this waltz” when he translated it to English?

    You only limit yourself with the logic and attitude you are posing here. Your loss…

  • grobworthy says:

    Steve, I’m sure she does appreciate the song. That’s why she bothered spending hours learning how to sing it in her native language. Can you not hear the beauty in her language? The softness and music within the words? It is hardly being butchered. I am sure the Beatles would love this version. They sang some of their hits in German afterall. Well done, Emma. Very cool! Wela’lin!

  • Pam Hewitt says:

    I have always loved this song. Some songs translate well into certain languages. I must say it is a delight to hear it in this language. I dare say blackbird might translate clumsily into, say, German. But this language is just right for the prosody. thankyou

  • Budd says:

    Emma – thank you for that beautiful rendition of Blackbird. I am a huge Beatles fan and you just made my day. Keep up the great work and beautiful rendition by the guitarist too.

  • Fred from Oz says:

    Lovely! Thank You!

  • John Ives says:

    Wow, Steve, I feel very sad for you that you have such a narrow view of the world — must be tough living under that little rock of yours.

    It was very beautifully translated, played and sung. Well done!

  • Joan Dillon says:

    Mr. Gray, There are plenty of other cultures who love popular songs that they sing in their own language. If any one of us were lucky enough to travel the world, that would be common knowledge.
    I suggest my favorite website, RadioGarden. You can tune into any radio station in the world that streams. You find the answer there.

  • Nastassja says:

    Having a cover in a another language doesn’t detract from the existence of the original. As a language nerd, I love hearing songs I love in other languages, both languages I’ve studied and know, and languages I have absolutely no familiarity with, as well as the original language.

  • OC says:

    Just curious, does anyone know which Facebook page mentioned this post?
    Open Culture

  • JMM says:

    — Too bad people just can’t appreciate a sharing of cultures.

    I suggest you examine your motive for being so negative. Sad really

    Hope things get better for you



  • Pauline says:

    Wil Wheaton (author) is the Facebook page

  • Cheryl says:

    I hope you get help for your negativity. Meanwhile, why don’t you keep it to yourself, instead of derogating this talented youngling.

  • Sharon Wilson says:

    Love , love , love the song . So beautifully done . Thank you

  • Tony says:

    Amazing. Beautiful girl. Beautiful voice. Beautiful song. Beautiful language. What more can you ask for?

  • waltinseattle says:

    She did not butcher the song tho many have even in The King’s English butchered it Millions translate words for others to understand and appreciate as they have always Millions have translated the rhythms of music to add to the music . musicians understand this as what music is about because music belongs to the world or as one Jazz man said when it leaves my horn it’s free on its own to all who hear. to the world it is out there. Thats how jazz won the world. and how it has given it back improved. bigger. more i clusive. central africa an auditorium.rises after 1 note and si gs along to johnny carson because it is THEIR MUSIC too. about missi g a lost home and rememberi g.

  • walt says:

    correction it was johnny cash. country is also everyones music. and we share it with everyo e. you cant hoarde it if you love it.

  • Kathryn Belyea says:

    Fantastic Bravo from one artist to another Loved it :)

  • Marc Taylor says:

    Steve Gray, boy you really miss the mark with that sort of commenting. Look around you, interpretation is what gives us life as we know it, otherwise there would be no need for anything other than the original artifact.

    As for taking a classic song, that is only your opinion it being a classic. ‘Butchering’ again opinion, I wonder given power where you’d take this freedom you have to opine, outlaw such re-recording, expunge the Eskasoni First nation.

    That only 11,000 still speak the Mi’kmaq language is testimony to the history where those with surnames such as yours and mine arrived in their lands and frankly created such conditions that see them marginalised and our descendants profiteering still.

    The funny thing is as much as I enshrine you right to opinion, I rejoice in offering you mine.

  • Jonathan Harpur says:

    I’m sure Mr Gray is one of those purists who only reads the bible in the original Hebrew/Greek/Sanskrit/Latin, and whose Christmas carols are also most often sung in German and Latin. We shouldn’t ever pollute our, and other, culture(s) with crossovers. Mr Grey, I’m sure, will enjoy reverting exclusively to Middle English. His mindset is patently well thought out, clearly.

  • Lori M. says:

    Steve Gray, the Beatles German version of the song must drive you nuts then.

  • Sheldon Oneill says:


  • Connie Chapman says:

    Beautiful in every way possible.

  • Gail says:

    Oh Steve,
    It was absolutely beautiful and helps me appreciate another’s language and hear its lyric quality. Through generations music, both classical and non-classical, has been “played with”, making delightful iterations that can add to or completely alter the original, but always reflect the source and their efforts to share. Music is eternal and ever present-no one owns it(or can destroy it.

  • Tess says:

    Delightful!!! Thank-you for also providing the lyrics and phonetic pronunciation. I will share this with my class – a lovely extension of our grade 3 social studies. What a wonderful way to share your beautiful language.

  • Melisa says:

    Because it’s interesting to hear how songs we easily recognise would sound in other languages? Or because it’s important to hear how native languages can be easily brought into pop culture and still be relevant? I thought it was beautiful, guess you had your head so far up your ass you couldn’t tell.

  • Susannah says:

    Beautifully done.

    Translation is an art. Of course there is something lost in translation – it happens every time two humans talk to each other. But we honor each other when we keep trying and listening.

  • Richard Grant says:

    Beautiful! As a lifelong Beatles fan (who also enjoys both the French and English lyrics in ‘Michelle,’ it’s hard for me to understand the idea that this is ‘butchering’ a song. Now, if you were objecting to the butchering of native Americans, it would be much easier to understand. I hope some day we can have the privilege of hearing some Algonquin songs in English – maybe we’d learn a thing or two.

  • Jannette says:

    Powerful thank you for sharing this beautiful song in your native tongue it sounds eerie

  • Ger Neville says:

    My favourite song made even more beautiful. Wonderful guitar playing, sweet voice and lyrical translation. A masterpiece!

  • Noneya says:

    You are absolutely friggen disgusting and your comment should be reported and you banned

  • Natasha says:

    That was so beautiful, it made me cry

  • xoxoxoBruce says:

    Don’t waste your time beating up Mr Grey, he has his cross to bear. Instead know you loved it, Paul McCartney loved it, I loved it, and we’re not alone.

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