A Prince of Wales Island-based app developer has released a new free app that shares the music of his Native culture.
Tlingit Song is just that – an app filled with Tlingit music. Klawock resident Simon Roberts worked with his aunt, Emelene Charles, and the dance group that she leads, called Xaaga-naa.
Charles credits her parents with starting the group in 2005. She said Theodore and Alicia Roberts worked with the members to make sure they followed tradition, and pronounced the words properly.
“By the time we were in grade school, they stopped the Tlingit words and we learned the English more than we did our own language,” she said. “I’m still trying to learn.”
Her mother, Alicia Roberts, is 90 years old now, and Charles said her mother still works with the Xaaga-naa dance group.
Charles stresses that the whole group contributes, and they plan to perform at Sealaska’s annual Celebration gathering in Juneau.
It’s not going to one big I did this. It’s all of us making this dance group. I really love every one of them. I feel like they’re my children.
Charles writes many of the group’s songs herself. She estimated that she’s up to more than 70 songs.
“The songs that have come forth have come from the lord,” she said. “When one song would come through, I’d wake up singing a tune. All of a sudden it would just start falling into place. I’d call my mother and told her listen to this song. While I’m still singing it, she’d tell me how to sing in Tlingit.”
The first song Charles said she wrote is called “We Are One.” That is among the nine songs on the Tlingit Song app. The app also offers a YouTube link to a video of the Xaaga-naa group performing, plus other information.
Simon Roberts has developed other culture-based apps, Totem Stories, which focuses on the stories of totem poles, and a tutorial on the southern Tlingit dialect.
Here is the link to the Xaaga-naa group’s website: http://tlingitsong.com/
And this one is Simon Robert’s website: http://www.zimonzayz.com/home.html