Agalisiga Mackey uses his music to preserve the Cherokee language and inspire others.
19-year-old Mackey started playing guitar about two years ago and started writing and performing only a year ago. McKee, he said, only wrote songs in Cherokee.
“For me, whenever I do it with Cherokee, I have a completely different mission, because the language is kind of dying,” Mackey said.
He said he wanted to incorporate Cherokee into his music, bring awareness to the language, and show others that Cherokee can be used in contemporary forms such as music, television shows and movies.
The genres of music Mackie performs are older country and western, both English and Cherokee. That’s because it brought him joy growing up listening to it, and it’s one of his easiest genres to play on the guitar.
McKee said he had only picked up a guitar a few years ago, but he had always been around music.
“I think it’s always been a part of my life, but it’s never been this extreme,” Mackey said. “I would consider myself a musician now, but my whole life [I’ve been around music]”
While he’s not currently performing in front of large audiences, Mackey is about to start doing more.
“Location doesn’t matter as long as people enjoy it,” says Mackey. “My goal when I perform is to show that I can sing in Cherokee and to let people know that Cherokee still has value. Cherokee needs to be preserved. It’s one of the easiest ways to learn, keep it in your head, and stick with it.”
Mackey said that although he is usually “winged” on stage, he is usually not nervous when in front of an audience. Every time he plays and sings, he does it differently on the spot.
“It feels more authentic to me. It brings it to life instead of hearing the same old thing over and over again,” McKee said. “It feels more interactive, and I feel like I’m creating memories, not just playing for these people. I think.”
McKay will soon record the intro to the Cherokee version of “The Berenstein Bears” and release the album on an undetermined date.