YouTube is filled with foreign-language covers of famous songs: American hits in French, Latin American pop songs in English, classic Czech melodies in Polish. But how often do you see the Beatles, Leonard Cohen or Metallica covered in Udmurt, Greenlandic or Scottish Gaelic? Some of these hidden gems can show us a whole new side of the songs we already know, and are truly precious to the speakers of these slightly lesser-known languages. I decided to show you some of my favourites, but let me tell you, there are plenty more out there!
1. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in Welsh: ‘Haleliwia’ by Brigyn
What do you get when you mix a beautiful song with a beautiful language? Brigyn’s Welsh-language cover of Hallelujah, perhaps one of the world’s most translated songs, is guaranteed to make you relax and reflect on life for a bit. Whether or not you speak any Cymraeg!
2. Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours (and 5 other songs) in Irish Gaelic: ‘Sé amhrán le Chéile’ by TG Lurgan
And another Celtic language in the spotlight: Irish Gaelic. TG Lurgan are among the most known Gaelic bands in Ireland. And the fact that they’re all young and dedicated to preserving their mother tongue by covering famous pop songs is already an excuse to check them out. At this occasion, TG Lurgan translated Norwegian Recycling’s 6-song mash-up into Irish, featuring I’m Yours and Collide amongst others. A lot of the band’s songs are recorded by a relatively large group of talented young singers, in what seems to be a pretty fun atmosphere. Have a look at their YouTube channel!
3. U2’s One in Silesian: ‘Jedyn’ by Bernard Kurzawa
While there’s no consensus over whether ślōnskŏ gŏdka (Silesian) is a separate language or a dialect/ethnolect of Polish, the fact remains that not many people are aware of its existence. There aren’t many covers available online either! However, I’ve recently come across Bernard Kurzawa, reportedly the lead singer of a band called Betiber, who has recorded a brilliant cover of U2’s hit in Silesian. The sound quality isn’t the best, but the subtitles make up for it. If you speak any Polish or German, you’re sure to find the text quite amusing!
4. Shawn Mendes’ Treat You Better in Basque: by Iker Bengotxea Goya
Many people find the Basque language very fascinating – a completely isolated language with what’s possibly the world’s most difficult grammar. Thanks to Iker, who’s previously also recorded some opera in the language, we can now enjoy an euskara (Basque) cover of ‘Treat You Better’. Have a look!
5. The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black in Yiddish: by Orchestra Polydor
Here’s one of my personal favourites: Rolling stones in Yiddish! I couldn’t find the lyrics for “רויט און שווארץ” (‘Red and Black’), which is a shame as it would have been interesting to see how the translation differs from the original. Either way, it’s worth listening to!
6. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in Greenlandic: Sikkerarput Pilluaatit by Angerdla K. Olsen
Like long words? Check the lyrics for Angerdla Kielsen Olsen’s Greenlandic (probably West Greenlandic?) cover of Hallelujah. Could anyone who speaks Kalaallisut tell me what “puigunngisaannagassaraakka” means? I’m just curious…
7. The Beatles’ Yesterday in Udmurt: by Buranovskiye Babushki
Remember Russia’s 2012 Eurovision entry? The eight elderly Udmurtian ladies who stole the show with their fancy folk costumes and funny English pronunciation? Here they are: the Бурановские Бабушки (‘The Grannies from Buranovo’), singing a real Beatles classic in their native Finno-Ugric language, Udmurt!
8. Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters in Catalan: Res Més Importa by Filferro
From Udmurtian ethno-pop to heavy metal: here’s one of Metallica’s most loved songs, performed in Catalan! Though some would argue that Catalan isn’t one of the ‘lesser-known languages’, I know from personal experience that lots of people are unaware that it exists. If you want to know what Catalan sounds like, I definitely recommend listening to Filferro – their covers are rather professional. Great voices too!
9. The Beatles’ Blackbird in Scottish Gaelic: Lon-dubh by Julie Fowlis
Another Beatles song, this time a less popular one – brought to us by a Scottish lady with an amazing voice, in Gàidhlig. Scotland is really proud of its beautiful Celtic tongue despite the relatively low amount of speakers – and it should be! Never heard it spoken before? Here’s your chance!
10. Adele’s Hello in Esperanto: Ha Lo by Cristina Casella
Considering it has millions of speakers worldwide, Esperanto definitely isn’t as known as it should be. The constructed language is often said to be the world’s most logical language and – as a nowhere-near-fluent Esperantist – I agree! So here’s a cover of Adele’s ‘Hello’, along with some subtitles. It’s quite easy to read… why not sing along?
And let me repeat, this isn’t everything! Just for Catalan, I have a playlist of roughly 40 covers of famous songs, along with about 20 in Esperanto. I must admit that finding these covers wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it was definitely worth the effort!
Have a look, and if you find any good ones, please send them over in a comment! Meanwhile, I’ll keep looking too… I’d love to find some in Sardinian, Galician, Cornish or Romansh. Perhaps Frisian or Piedmontese? The list is endless!
Have a nice day,
(Balint – Hebrew script)