A made-in-Manitoba music video that marries two seemingly unrelated concepts — the fictional Klingon language from the Star Trek series and the Queen hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” — continues to attract international attention.
The unusual project, spearheaded by local musician and record producer Rusty Matyas, took months to painstakingly translate, record and film, but its creator says it was all worth it — not to mention a fun way to ride out the pandemic.
“(Klingon is) a real language. It’s an official, recognized language of the world that came out of this fictional, science fiction TV show,” said Matyas.
“I love sci-fi, and I wanted to do something that made it real — that made it a real thing in the world. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is about the most epic song I could think of that would be really challenging.”
Matyas said he initially started translating the song via an English-to-Klingon dictionary, but eventually hired a local speaker — of which Winnipeg, apparently, has many — to come into the studio and help turn the 1975 classic into something otherworldly.
“The rhythms and the phrasings of it have to fit into the melody that we all know and recognize,” said Matyas.
“Apparently it was a very thoughtful translation — Mark Okrand, who invented the language, reached out through the National Museum of Language to say the translator did a great job.”
Matyas, who records music for Moonrise Music Club, a local production team, said he then took the original song and had a drummer learn and record the entire thing.
“I then built that song one instrument at a time on top of that. I played bass, piano, and guitars on top of that one at a time, and then (vocalist) Ian (Cameron) came in and sang all the leads.
“I added harmonies on top, and we had harp and violin and theremin to really bring out that sci-fi Star Trek sound. It took months.”
The video — originally intended to be a spoof on Queen’s iconic clip for the original song — ended up being filmed by the individual performers individually due to the pandemic, and has since been growing its audience in a “slow burn,” Matyas said, with spikes around related events like Star Trek Day on Sept. 8.
“It’s been awesome,” he said. “It’s such a strange thing to make that it sounds like a punchline, almost.
“The whole idea is to just enjoy it — it’s not a commercial enterprise. We’re not trying to make any money off it. We can’t. It’s not our song, it’s not our language.
“We just wanted to see what they sounded like together.”
Matyas said the same crew of local musicians is working on a follow-up, which won’t be in Klingon, but promises to be just as entertaining.
As for its growing worldwide success — the video was featured on Australian TV days ago — Matyas says it’s a happy byproduct of the fun he had making it.
“The fact that in such tragic, scary, confusing times, the fact that something I created is putting a smile on people’s faces — around the world — that means a lot.”