Falynn Baptiste releases album of Christmas songs in Cree
- Creeden Martell | December 19, 2020
Revitalization and preservation of the Cree language is the focus and drive behind Falynn Baptiste’s debut album, A Cree Christmas.
Baptiste is a teacher in Saskatoon by trade but has been dabbling in music for years, having previously recorded Christmas music which was then uploaded to YouTube and burned onto a CD for $5 when there was demand.
“I want to honour our first language speakers because they held onto the language,” Baptiste said of the music.
“Our grandparents … went through everything that happened in our country with colonialism and residential schools but they still held onto the language for us, so it’s our job to pick it up, learn it and carry it into the future.”
Baptiste, a Cree/Salteaux woman from the Red Pheasant First Nation, was moved by the birth of her daughter and the death of an uncle in 2020 to pursue a label and a recording studio.
“I want (my daughter) to know the language and for her to speak the language,” Baptiste said. “One of my uncles, who was like a dad to me, always wanted me to finish an album and take him a CD. I never did finish and he passed away this year.”
Baptiste says it is her goal to eventually record another album but with hymns instead.
Christmas music translated into Cree resonates with people, Baptiste says, and that it “hits the soul and spirit of a person.”
One song sticks out in Baptiste’s mind as particularly beautiful - It Came Upon a Midnight Clear - because the song uses Cree language to speak of the original storytellers at the beginning of time.
“I really like that song, the way the translation came and how that reminds us as a Cree people, we come from a beginning, all from the same place,” she added. “Our language is as old as our existence.”
The process of translation was done with the help of Solomon Ratt in Regina, Baptiste said. Ratt is a Cree language instructor from Stanley Mission who teaches at the First Nations University of Canada.
Baptiste said the Cree had to be condensed to fit within the structure of the music at some points, as well. It was a bit of a challenge as an English word could be translated to Cree but it might then become an entire sentence, for example.
The complexity of the Cree language is what makes it beautiful and worth the effort, she said.
Baptiste said she fit the lyrics to the music by writing them down on sheet music and fitting the words in with the musical notes.
“They almost don’t quite fit but they can fit, it just takes a lot of work,” Baptiste said of the translations.
A Cree Christmas includes four songs Baptiste recorded and uploaded to YouTube in years past: O Holy Night, What Child is This, Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful.
The album will be released on December 11th on Baptiste’s website falynnebaptiste.com.