The popular children’s music video Baby Shark (Doo Doo Doo Doo), which has over 4bn views on YouTube, is now being developed into a version in Navajo for the Navajo Nation – the largest Native American reservation in the US.
The video is expected to launch on its Korean maker Pinkfong’s YouTube channel by the end of December.
Pinkfong announced last week it is working with the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, to create a new version of the widely popular tune about a family of sharks.
“I’ve always been interested in early-childhood programming. We reached out to Pinkfong in South Korea and they came back right away to help raise awareness for language preservation,” said Manuelito Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum.
Listed as a vulnerable language by Unesco in 2011, today Navajo, or Diné as it is called in native tongue, is spoken by about 120,000 people.
The Navajo Nation Museum advertised that they are holding auditions for voice actors and singers to make the Navajo version of Baby Shark on 8 December at the museum.
The song has maintained international popularity since its release in 2016. During a time of civil unrest in Lebanon, a video of protesters singing Baby Shark to calm a frightened child inside a car, went viral.
Baby Shark isn’t the first piece of content from mainstream media to be dubbed in Navajo. Wheeler said language preservation is at the heart of the museum’s work.
“We helped put Star Wars into Navajo,” he said. “That was the first [project] of that magnitude dubbed for the Navajo Nation.”
The Navajo Nation, a semi-autonomous territory that stretches across swaths of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, previously arranged for Disney’s Finding Nemo to be dubbed in Navajo as well. The museum is also exploring options beyond children’s programming.
“We’re doing a lot of different things and we have a decent relationship with more than a few studios,” Wheeler said. “As we speak, we just wrapped up production on Clint Eastwood’s classic, A Fistful of Dollars.”
Wheeler spoke to the need to address language issues within the community.
“All of these projects have been strategically chosen for the demographics we’re trying to address in the Navajo Nation,” he said. “Language preservation is talking Navajo in the home and having more formal programs and schools that teach Navajo language.”
Wheeler said being included in mainstream media has boosted Navajo pride in their culture.
“The acceptance of Navajo culture in a global sense as equals to the rest of the world was a side-effect of doing these projects,” he said. “American Indians’ relationship with the US has not been a pleasant one – our cultures have been either eradicated or extremely suppressed. So for this to happen, it reverses those effects.”