Monday, January 08, 2007

Jana - American Indian Christmas

We were quite lucky with our haul of Christmas CDs here at the yuleblog.

Twenty two (22) brand new CDs - the most ever by gift or purchase in one Christmas season - are sitting on my desk, ready to be studied, reviewed, and presented over the next few weeks.

Joel's going to be so happy with my first selection.

Several years ago, I met Joel at my first audition for the local theater group I'm involved with here in Fort Wayne. He was my first stage director, got all my jokes, and quickly became a fast friend.

Over the past two years, I've helped Joel in many different ways - building / painting sets, operating the sound or light board, hanging lights (very low on my ladder of things I like), and assembling sound designs for several shows.

If you were to ask Joel about how I've helped him, he'll probably tell you about the time he was lunching at an Italian restaurant with a friend. A certain song sung in Italian was playing as they lunched and quickly got stuck in his head. Joel called me, hummed the tune, and I was able to identify the song almost immediately ("Eh Cumpari" by Julius LaRosa).

Being a fount of useless knowledge has its moments.

Over the past year, Joel has tried to find something, ANYTHING that I don't own for my Christmas collection. He would find a certain used Christmas CD (I already had it), a song he found while scouring the Internet (have it four times over in my collection), or the odd LP found at the local Goodwill store (have it on CD). He kept plugging away and plugging away.

Several weeks ago, we met at the theater for some final touch ups on a set. As I greeted him, Joel gave me this CD you're looking at. "It's Christmas songs sung in the native tongues of American Indian tribes" he added. Yeah, WOW!

"Joel," I said with quiet calm, pausing briefly for dramatic effect. "I don't have this..."

The primal scream of utter delight that issued forth from his mouth was heard several blocks away. It was also reported that several windows and hearing aids at the senior center immediately across the street from the theater were damaged although I can't confirm this.

"... CD in my collection." I finished.

Not only did my friend Joel find something I didn't own but it was a CD I had never seen or heard about. This was a straight-away center-field out-of-any-ballpark tape-measure blast! Thank you, my good man!

Enough about Joel... now about Jana: She was born in 1980 as Jana Mashonee in Robeson County, North Carolina and is Lumbee by birth. Like the Tuscarora tribe from North Carolina, Jana moved to New York as well to seek her fame and fortune.

At the age of seventeen, Jana was a high school student during the week and a singer in a funk band on weekends when Rodney Shelton first noticed her. Shelton recorded a demo and dropped it into the lap of the one and only Mike Curb - former lieutenant governor of California, the man who told Sammy Davis Jr. to sing "The Candy Man", and owner of Curb Records.

Curb signed her to a recording contract and they began to release singles and get Jana noticed. She appeared at the 2001 National Scout Jamboree before an audience of 70,000+ (bet those scouts went home happy!), the 2001 Inaugural Ball, and in the 2002 movie "Dream Weaver".

After releasing her final single with Curb - a cover of Meat Loaf's "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad", she signed with Radikal Records in New Jersey where she released her version of "Stairway To Heaven" by Led Zeppelin. This single reached #7 on Billboard's Hot Dance Singles chart and soon Jana began work on her first album "Flash Of A Firefly" in 2005.

That brings us to her Christmas album. To quote from her own liner notes:

"Christmas is an important time to me. I love the music of this season, and I've always wanted to make a Christmas album, but wanted to make it very special. With the vision of Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Indian Nation, I believe we have created a unique musical journey into the spirit of Christmas.

"We have chosen ten traditional Christmas songs and have sung them in ten different Native American languages. To my knowledge, this is the first time this has ever been done. The preservation of our languages is extremely important to the culture and vitality of our people.

"I am so proud and honored to be able to sing to you in the beautiful sounds of these languages. It is my hope that you enjoy listening to these songs as much as I have enjoyed singing them."


1.) O Holy Night - (sung in Navajo)
2.) O Come All Ye Faithful - (sung in Kalispel Salish)
3.) Silent Night - (sung in Arapaho)
4.) Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - (sung in Lakota)
5.) What Child Is This? - (sung in Cherokee)
6.) The Little Drummer Boy - (sung in San Juan Tewa Pueblo)
7.) It Came Upon A Midnight Clear - (sung in Oneida)
8.) Winter Wonderland - (sung in Ojibwe)
9.) Joy To The World - (sung in Chiricahua Apache)
10.) Amazing Grace - (sung in Lumbee)

Complementing her perfectly throughout the whole album are the wonderful orchestrations of the SAGA Native Orchestra. Using elements of Indian music (pan flute, tribal drums) sparingly, they make you focus on the music instead while never forgetting their musical roots completely, leaving plenty of room for Jana.

Jana's voice is haunting in one instant, mesmerizing the next, and very contemporary throughout. She locks you in position with her warmth and passion as she sings and doesn't let go until the track changes. Whether it's a standard carol like "O Come All Ye Faithful", a contemporary song like "Winter Wonderland", or a hymn like "Amazing Grace", Jana's voice rings true and clear.

If she sounds this good with Christmas music sung in American Indian, I'm dying to hear what she sounds like singing other styles! If you want to find out, check out Jana's official website and/or her MySpace corner to listen or download two tracks off this album. Be sure to check out her work with "Jana's Kids"!

My paternal grandfather was part Aztec Indian - an immensely proud determined man. Part of him runs through my father who passed that heritage down to me. I'm proud to pass that along to my children.

Jana, on behalf of all of us... tlazocamati for this wonderful album!

UP NEXT: My princess daughter Maggie hand picked this Christmas CD for me. I like a sleighride...



stubbysfears said...

I don't have this one either...but I'm a gonna get it!

Just listened to the tracks on her websites and she is incredible!

Thanks Captain...and thanks Joel!

Joel said...

Not only can she sing... but being a MAJOR BABE doesn't hurt! I'm still giddy on this discovery for the Captain!

CaptainOT said...

Stubby - Another North Carolina connection I see...

Joel - You're just giddy, period!