Great honor for Jully Black: The singer was allowed to perform the Canadian national anthem before the NBA All-Star Game, which took place in Salt Lake City this year. The game pits the best players in the North American professional basketball league against each other every mid-season. Singer Black was nervous not only because she wanted to perform for the special occasion, but also because she had something special planned. "I had a secret," she later confessed.
Her secret: She wanted to change the lyrics of the anthem "O Canada". And so did she. The 45-year-old deviated from the actual template in the very first line. Instead of "O Canada! Our home and native land!" she sang "Our Home on Native Land". Loosely translated, it can be interpreted as follows: Black described Canada as her home on indigenous land. A tribute to the indigenous people who have experienced a lot of (sometimes violent) oppression and discrimination in Canada.
The indigenous people lived in the country long before the immigrants from Europe settled it - that was around 1600. The indigenous population was ruthlessly pushed out, their culture kept small. In the 19th and 20th centuries, around 150,000 indigenous children were torn from their families and placed in state boarding schools. At least 3200 of them are said to have died there.
All this prompted Jully Black to set an example with her interpretation of the anthem and to honor the heritage of the indigenous people on a large stage. The anthem's original lyrics were "a lie," Black said, but her altered line was telling the truth. "I sang the facts. We walk, breathe and live on their land," explained the singer. She discussed the line with indigenous friends, she told TSN. "I dissected the lyrics to sing them with an intention."
In Canada, her performance sparked a debate about the anthem and how to deal with indigenous culture. On the one hand, she received a lot of praise for drawing attention to the fate of the indigenous people. "Indigenous people have been using this line for decades," said Eva Jewell of the Yellowhead Institute, a research center for indigenous people. "Seeing Jully put that in the national anthem showed me that she understands us." Others claimed Black had no right to change the lyrics of the national anthem on his own. You just wanted to make headlines.
Canada already proved in 2018 that it is possible to change the anthem. At that time, the second line was modified. In the original, the "sons" of the country were mentioned. Now it's gender-neutral: "Awaken true patriotism in all of us."
Sources: TSN / CBC