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langsxmasAmong many music blogs that I follow, I have noticed a tendency to create a category for religious music and fill it with nothing but the wackiest southern preacher stereotypes and/or goofiest cover art imaginable. That’s fine and I enjoy those entries on a certain level, but ultimately it is aural/visual junk food. I don’t have any haughty point to make; I don’t post that stuff here for the same reasons that I don’t do a single-genre blog: Lots of other people are already doing it much better than I could, and besides, there’s so much more out there that doesn’t fit that description that is worth hearing. Here is an example of one of my favorites.

Languages of Christmas combines a few of my favorite things: Language-focused presentation, raw recordings, and Christmas music that isn’t maudlin. Not all of the material is from the field, however; the Mandarin selections were recorded during a live television performance of the Choir of the Lutheran Voice in Taiwan, and the Amharic selections (not included here, as they are sadly not representative of Ethiopia’s Orthodox tradition) were recorded at a radio station in Addis Ababa. A good deal of the music is Western in origin. In addition to the versions of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” posted here, the record also includes renditions of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” in the English-based creole Tok Pisin from Papua New Guinea; “We Three Kings” in Arabic from Lebanon; and “Joy To The World” in Amharic from Ethiopia. The too brief liner notes mention the indigenous character of the remaining material. One of the two Yoruba tracks on the album is apparently a traditional anniversary song, rewritten to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. Only one song is devoid of explicit religious content, the Japanese “Joyful, Joyful Christmas”, while the other Japanese entry is almost impressively religious given the fact that only approximately 1% of Japanese profess adherence to Christianity in what is one of the most irreligious societies in the world.

Enjoy, and have a wonderful holiday.

Various Artists- Languages of Christmas (Augsburg Publishing House, 1973)

Christmas Has Come (in Yoruba language, Nigeria)

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (in Mandarin language, Taiwan)

Oh Come All Ye Faithful (in Arabic language, Lebanon)

The Wise Men Adored (in Telugu language, India)



For the inaugural post of this blog, I can think of no better place to visit than the ancient land of the cedars: Lebanon.

Lebanon is by many accounts the most cosmopolitan of all Middle Eastern countries. Prior to its 1975-1990 civil war, it was also the #1 producer of domestic vinyl records in the region. The only other Middle Eastern country that might compete with it is Egypt, but if you omit the ridiculously huge discography of Umm Kulthum there can be little doubt that Lebanon comes out on top. If you are new to collecting Middle Eastern vinyl, chances are you’ll run across many titles by Fairuz, Sabah, and other famous Lebanese artists on EMI’s Greek-pressed “Voix De L’Orient” series, as these seem to be the most common of all Middle Eastern records from the post-78 RPM period.

And then there are records like this one, on tiny labels probably financed by Lebanese immigrants or other people from the region looking to make a little dent in the local record market. From my one year of Arabic in college I can tell you that the record label name means something like “Immigrant Nights”, but I could find no mention of this record label even when searching using an Arabic search engine. As for the group, “Fatat” means “girl”, so it’s probably best that I don’t go into detail about what came up when I searched for “Fatat Lebanon”.

Based on web searches, composer Mehsen Mouawad may or may not be related to several people in the Zgharta district in North Lebanon who bear that family name, including a major in the Lebanese Army who was married in September of 2010 at the church of Our Lady of El-Hosn in Ehden. Whoever he is, he’s written a catchy little tune. Enjoy!

Fatat Lebanon- Asmar Ya Bou Al Shami (Layali Al Mohajer Records, date unknown)