Agalisiga Mackey uses his music to help preserve the Cherokee language and inspire others.
McKee, 19, started playing guitar about two years ago, and only started writing and performing a year ago. McKee said he only writes songs in Cherokee.
“For me, whenever I do it in the Cherokee, it has a completely different mission because the language is dying,” McKee said.
He said he incorporates Cherokee into his music because he wants to raise awareness of the language and show others that it can be used in modern forms such as music, TV shows and movies.
The type of music McKee played, whether English or Cherokee, was old country and western music. That’s because of the joy it brings him, because he grew up listening to it, and because it’s one of the easiest genres to play on guitar.
Mackey said that although he only got into guitar a few years ago, he has always been surrounded by music. He played in the band at Sequoyah High School and sang liturgical songs as a child.
“I would say it’s always been a part of my life, but it’s never been this extreme,” McKee said. “I think now I’d be considered a musician, but my whole life [I’ve been around music]”
While he’s not currently performing in front of many audiences, McKee hopes to start performing more.
“The location doesn’t matter as long as people like it,” Mackey said. “Whenever I perform, my goal is to prove that you can write songs in Cherokee and make sure people know that the language still has value. Cherokee should be preserved. Music is one of the easiest ways to learn and keep things in your mind , will not let them disappear.”
Mackey says he’s usually not nervous in front of an audience, though he usually “improvises” on stage. Every time he performs and sings, he performs live in a different way.
“It just felt more real to me. It brought life to it instead of hearing the same old stuff over and over,” McKee said. “It felt more interactive, like I wasn’t just performing for these people, but creating memories. I guess I was trying to reach them rather than give them something to hear.”
Mackey will soon be recording the Cherokee version of the intro to “The Berenstain Bears,” and will release an album on a TBD date.