Cree singer from northern Manitoba gets Tonight Show nod

A northern Manitoba Cree country singer's album was featured on The Tonight Show in a segment with host Jimmy Fallon and comedian Chris Rock.

The Pukatawagan Song was one of the most famous songs written and performed by Sidney Castel, a Cree performer who died in 2003 at the age of 68 — just two years after releasing his album Live at the Beaver Lodge.

The song and the album were featured by Fallon and Rock during a segment called Do Not Play, in which the two poke fun at amateurish music recordings.

"Here's my complaint about that. I don't believe that was live," Fallon joked, after playing a few seconds of the song on the show.

Community pride

Although the two comedians made fun of Castel's singing, the late singer's appearance on U.S. network TV still delighted people in his home community, Pukatawagan, and in Manitoba's Indigenous community.

"Wow, look at that. The king of Pukatawagan," wrote one person on Facebook, who said they were from Pukatawagan.

'The Pukatawagan Song'

A Cree man from Pukatawagan, Castel was a former trapper who only began his unlikely music career in the late 1990s when he was already in his 60s.

He was discovered singing The Pukatawagan Song at a talent competition in 2001 and professionally recorded the song in Winnipeg as part of the competition's prize. 

The song became a hit in Manitoba, topping Indigenous radio charts and receiving airplay on CBC Radio. 

The full length album, Live at the Beaver Lodge, followed in 2002 — and brought his second hit, The Thompson Song. 

Castel died of natural causes in 2003.