American Indian Christmas

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With thousands of Christmas discs in the bins, you've probably thought you've heard it all -- but Jana, a member of the Lumbee tribe who is Native America's premiere diva and a rising independent music star, has created a fascinating disc that is all at once very familiar and brilliantly exotic. A little background: the self-proclaimed "Urban Indian" won a Nammy for Best Pop Artist (2001), a shared Grammy (with Crystal Lewis) for "Kiss and Tell," which she co-wrote with the Christian artist, and distinction as the first Native artist to debut with the Billboard Single of the Week, "Ooh, Baby Baby." She's also scored big on the dance market with remixes by DJ Skribble and Anthony Acid, and a cover of "Stairway to Heaven." The lush arrangements of all the standard Christmas songs here, from "Oh Holy Night" to "Silent Night" -- with a final touch of "Amazing Grace" added in for good spiritual measure -- are warm, infectious, and sweet, with some like "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" featuring a mix of powerful orchestration and tribal rhythms. But what makes this effort remarkable is what emerges via "Jana"'s powerful yet ethereal voice -- lyrics in numerous Native American languages, from Navajo to Arapaho, Ojibwe to her native Lumbee. Remarkably, each of the ten songs is sung in a different language, prompting the listener, who will be quickly enraptured, to wonder if she speaks them all or was singing phonetically. Either way, it's a holiday treat that's off the beaten path and celebrates the deep spirituality of the Native culture.

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