SIX NATIONS – Although John Lennon and Paul McCartley are certainly not Mohawk, there is someone who believes Lennon just may have been.
Karonhyawake aka Jeff Doreen – is originally from Tyendinaga but is now living in Hamilton and teaching the Mohawk language at Six Nations.
He is also a singer/songwriter as well as an avid Beatles fan, and has been translating Beatles songs, mostly John Lennon tunes, into the Mohawk language.
He has found the flow of Lennon’s melodies and thoughs is a good mix with the Mohawk language and culture.
“I’ve been playing Beatle music all my life,” he says. “I started playing guitar when I was about 11, and my dad and uncles taught me the basic guitar chords of bluegrass music. But I really liked the Beatles and when I became fluent in the Mohawk language I thought, why not put them together.”
Karonhyawake performed some of his Mohawk-Beatle songs during the Iroquois Cup tournament at the ILA this past weekend. The Two Row Times caught up with him after his set, which he performed from the press booth located above the player’s benches.
“I like the way John Lennon thought,” he says. “His message resonates with Peace, Power and a Good Mind. Translating his thoughts into Mohawk seems to work really well.”
His Mohawk Beatles tunes have opened up invitations to perform at a number of Haudenosaunee communities as a solo act, but once he completes translation of a few more songs, he is planning a 12-song album of translated Beatles songs like Across the Universe, Hey Jude, Blackbird, and more. He is targeting next summer for that.
He was inspired to translate popular songs into Mohawk by Teddy Peters from Akwesasne who recorded a number of Johnny Cash songs in Mohawk on a CD called Teddy and Eddy.
“I was really cool to hear the language being used lie that,” says Karonhyawake.”
By day, Karonhyawake teaches Mohawk which he began doing at Hagersville High School in 2008 and has been teaching through the Hamilton School Board since 2009.
This year he took a leave of absence from the board to come to Six Nations and teach at the Mohawk Adult Immersion Program, Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa, under Executive Director Owennatekha.
He surprised himself at how readily some Beatles lyrics and melodies translate to the Mohawk language.
“I was driving around one day trying to translate Hey Jude, and the Mohawk words just seemed to start coming out of me,” he recalls. “I had nowhere to write it down to I just went over it and over it hoping I’d remember”
He currently plays in a Hamilton based Beatles cover band known as “Revolver” but is considering putting together another band to perform these songs live in the Mohawk language.
Check out some of Karonhyawake’s Mohawk Beatles songs on the Two Row Times YouTube channel.
Featured Photo: Karonhyawake (aka Jeff Doreen) has found an interesting link between the Beatles and the Mohawk language. The Mohawk language teacher has blended the timeless melodies of the Beatles with Mohawk translations and is preparing an CD of Beatles music in Mohawk set for release next summer. Sample some of his work at our Two Row Times YouTube Channel. See Whats Trending in this issue. (Photo by Jim Windle)