Thursday, December 15, 2022

Languages of Christmas--Taiwan, Tanzania, Nigeria, Madagascar, Japan, etc.! (Augsburg Publishing House 23-1660; 1973)


"Though united in its expression of Christmas joy, this album is a collection of songs from various cultures, languages, and musical backgrounds...Voices from the Far East, the Middle East, Africa, and the Pacific islands join in an international chorus of praise to the Christ child."--LP notes.  That about sums up this 1973 gem.  For some reason, I was afraid that this collection would be too... bland or contrived.  Or even boring.  I have memories of lackluster, tedious, same-sounding "world music" segments on the radio, circa 2005, and I hoped this wouldn't be an example of same.  And I'm happy to report that it is not!  It is the antithesis of such programs--fresh, fascinating, and totally worthy of the season.

Sources include a live television broadcast, plus radio studio and field recordings.  Hard to pick my favorite tracks--I suppose the Taiwanese, Nigerian, Japanese, and New Guinean please me the most.  Sound quality is mostly outstanding, even if I didn't detect much stereo, compatible or otherwise.  But since the jacket indicates stereo, I didn't sum the channels.

The different (i.e., non-Western) choral approaches, even when Western harmony is involved, are fascinating, and the Pidgin English Hark! The Harald Angels Sing (New Guinea) is an amazing combination of Western and non-Western vocalizing.  Let's Be Happy, Jesus Is Born (Ethiopia) has a quasi-hoedown feel (how's that for an adjective?) with its on-the-beat clapping and use of the gapped pentatonic scale.  For me, one of the many surprises on this 1973 LP.

Only the two Lebanon tracks fail to move me--they sound too off-key.  Of course, off-key is a relative thing--it's one culture's notion of proper pitch relationships vs. another's.  And, of course, I can't judge Lebanese Christmas selections from two examples.

No "world music" monotony here.  A varied and vibrant program, and don't let the 20-track playlist put you off!

DOWNLOAD: Languages of Christmas (Augsburg Publishing House 23-1660; 1973)


Silent Night

Stars of Ice

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel


A Swahili Carol

Lo, How a Rose


Christmas Has Come

Why Are We Together?


The Day of My Savior

Child Jesus


Joyful, Joyful Christmas

Sheep Sleep on Beds of Grass


Joy to the World

Let's Be Happy, Jesus Is Born


Wise Men Follow a Star

Baby Jesus Come to Earth

Harim Ensel Mekin Song (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)


We Three Kings

O Come, All Ye Faithful


The Morning Star

The Wise Men Adored



Ernie said...

Wow! This may be the most interesting share I've seen all season, from the many places I visit! Where did you dig this up from? Thanks for this one Lee, great find!!

Lee Hartsfeld said...


It turned up either in the big city Goodwill or the local St. Vincent de Paul thrift--I don't remember which. Either a .99 or .75 purchase. I was surprised to find something so cool in the thrifts--Discogs has it up at a fairly serious price, so it may be collectible. Or not--online pricing is not always a reliable indicator, of course.

Ernie said...

It's very cool, I would have been all over that in a heartbeat!

Traitor Vic said...

This is AMAZING!!! Thank You so much.

Happy Holidays!

Lee Hartsfeld said...

You're welcome! Happy Holidays to you, too!

Anonymous said...

What a cool album! Thanks for this Lee!
- Steve in PA

Lee Hartsfeld said...


My pleasure! It's an amazing LP. Edifying, even!

Der Bingle said...

Wow - this is incredible. I keep finding more and more by Augsburg Publishing House. Over at my blog I wrote a piece about completing my collection of their "Christmas Annual of American Art and Literature", and also finding a tie-in Christmas record. In nearly every edition of the Annual there was an article about Christmas in foreign lands. Maybe this record served as an extension to that thought. Thanks Lee!

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Der Bingle,

Very interesting. Glad you enjoyed! As you probably know, the label produced any number of Christmas LPs, including some "Jesus Movement" LPs. It looks like "Languages" was a one-shot effort, which is too bad--imagine a series of these.