TULSA – Horton Records, in conjunction with Cherokee Nation citizen and filmmaker Jeremy Charles, announced on April 13 the production of “Anvdvnelisgi,” a groundbreaking contemporary music album with original songs all performed in the Cherokee language.
Charles, owner of FireThief Productions, told a press conference that the idea for the album was born when CN’s Language Department Editor Howard Paden pitched the idea for an album. in the Cherokee language.
“He showed me a music video of a popular Maori singer making a music video,” Charles said. “Maori have an incredible ecosystem of film and music that a lot of our nations here need to emulate. He said, ‘Jeremy, we need this.’ At the end of the day, I had a list of 15 Cherokee citizen artists and a plan. That was only a year ago. And that’s why we’re here today.
The album will feature 12 emerging and seasoned Cherokee artists ranging in age from 14 to 50.
“His hip hop, Americana, pop, indie rock, country, metal and reggae all happened in the language,” Charles said.
“Anvdvnelisgi” is a Cherokee word that translates to “interpreters” in English.
“Right now there are less than 2,000 fluent Cherokee speakers,” Charles said. “It’s kind of crazy, and COVID has taken its toll on our speaking population. Over the past decade, I would say, the Cherokee Nation has made a concerted effort, a monumental effort, to preserve and protect the language in the future.
In an effort to preserve the Cherokee language in a new way, “Anvdvnelisgi” is the first of its kind.
“We are in a time where we have to turn every page when it comes to revitalizing the Cherokee language,” Paden said. “We lost a lot of speakers. In 2019, we lost 119; 2020 we lost 134; last year we lost 150. We think when the elders tell us if we lose that then the world will fall apart. We have a group of people working day and night on this subject which comes with this level of intensity.
The album features artists such as Zebadiah Nofire, Lillian Charles and Kalyn Fay, all of whom performed live at the press conference. Several of the artists worked for months with Cherokee translators to translate their songs.
Nofire, from Tahlequah, is a comedian who often incorporates quirky hip-hop parodies into his comedic routines. He performed his original song called “The Baker”. He is also a graduate of the tribe’s Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program.
“It’s the first song I’ve written in Cherokee, so it was an interesting experience,” Nofire said. “The rhyme schemes are different and the rhythm of the language is different, so it was really difficult but fun.”
He added that it is a way to show that Cherokee music exists outside of traditional hymns.
“This project is a good way to show people that we can do different things outside of hymns, which is about as far as our music genres go in the Cherokee language,” Nofire said. “Hopefully maybe I’ll help get the ball rolling, and someone might say, ‘Hey, I can write a song. “”
Lillian, 14, the daughter of Jeremy Charles, contributed an original song she wrote when she was 12 called “Circus”, which belongs to the Goth-pop genre. She worked with language translators Kathy Sierra and Bobbie Smith to translate her lyrics.
“There were no revisions and it really flowed,” Lillian said. “I realized how beautiful language is. It’s incredible.”
The album was created in collaboration with Horton records and with support from the Zarrow Families Foundation Commemoration Fund.
“We discovered that injustice can be social, it can be economic, it can be political. But it can also be cultural,” said Clarence Boyd, Zarrow Families Foundation Commemoration.