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Open performer auditions planned for Dec. 8 at Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock

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FARMINGTON — The catchy "doo doo doo" of "Baby Shark," the internationally popular children's song about a family of sharks, will soon have a version in the Navajo language.

The two-minute song and viral video were released in 2015 by Pinkfong, a subsidiary of the South Korea company SmartStudy Co. The song has been dubbed in 11 different languages. The collaboration between the company and the Navajo Nation Museum marks the first time the tune will be available in a Native American language.

When museum director Manuelito Wheeler contacted SmartStudy about developing a version in Navajo, the intent was using an aspect of popular culture to generate interest in the language among children and to further demonstrate the language's versatility.

"It's so easily recognizable," Wheeler said about the song in a telephone interview.

"Navajo children as young as 1 years old, I've seen them recognize that song. So, when it comes on in Navajo – they're already familiar with it – that should make for an easy transition for that child to start singing it in Navajo," he added.

After months of corresponding by email and video, the project is ready to select actors to voice baby, mommy, daddy, grandma and grandpa shark – the Navajo word for shark is łóó hashkéhé, meaning "angry fish."

To translate the song, the museum worked with a team of "highly qualified translators," Wheeler said.

"This project is more than just translating a viral hit into another language – it's part of an effort to preserve the language of the largest Native American tribe," Kevin Yoon, marketing communications manager for SmartStudy, said in an email.

Yoon explained that Pinkfong strives to create animated content that provides stimulating and fun learning experiences for children.

"As 'Pinkfong Baby Shark' has become a global hit, we thought it would be a perfect way to connect with the young and revive their use of the Navajo language," he said.

An exact date for release has not been set but the company expects to have it available between the end of December and early January, Yoon added.

"Baby Shark" latest addition to museum's Navajo language projects

The museum has worked this decade with various partners, including Lucasfilm and Pixar, to release "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" and "Finding Nemo" in Navajo.

After releasing those film versions, the museum decided to turn its attention to developing similar content for children, Wheeler said.

He also views these adaptions as creating an environment where fluent and non-fluent speakers of the Navajo language are equal because they are enjoying the finished products.

In addition to "Baby Shark," the museum is finalizing the Navajo language version of the 1964 Western film, "A Fistful of Dollars."

That adaption is about 99% complete, Wheeler said adding it is tentatively set for release in the spring.

The two-minute song and viral video were released in 2015 and have been dubbed in 11 different languages.

The "Baby Shark" project is seeking voice actors to portray the characters. An open casting call will happen on Dec. 8 in Arizona.

Casting call for shark family roles

The "Baby Shark" project is seeking voice actors to portray the characters and an open casting call will be from noon to 5 p.m. on Dec. 8. at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona.

There is no charge to audition. Baby Shark is open to children from 6 to 9 years old; Mommy Shark is open to women from 35 to 40 years old; Daddy Shark is open to men from 35 to 40 years old; Grandma Shark is open to women from 60 to 80 years old; and Grandpa Shark is open to men from 60 to 80 years old.

For more information about the casting call, contact the Navajo Nation Museum at 928-871-7941.

While fluency in the Navajo language is helpful, it should not stop individuals from auditioning for roles, Wheeler said.

"We also look at things like performance and if their performance is great, but their Navajo is OK, then we feel that they are teachable," he said adding the performer receives a recommendation from museum personnel but SmartStudy makes the final decision.

The recording process is scheduled for mid-December in Gallup, according to Wheeler.

"If you are able to pronounce words in Navajo, we recommend that you come out," he said. "If you're so into this song but your fluency is not great (or) you can say simple words like yá'át'ééh' with no problem, we still highly recommend to come out."

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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