Jana's 'American Indian Christmas'

Jana from the cover of 'American Indian Christmas'

Jana's offerings include 'Amazing Grace' in her own native tongue, Lumbee. Standing Stone Records hide caption

itoggle caption Standing Stone Records

The new CD American Indian Christmas features 10 different Christmas songs performed in 10 different Native American languages by one performer. Singer Jana talks about what inspired her to craft this album.

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We end today with a music piece with an artist in her own voice. This is a singer who's put a new twist on the classic Christmas album.

Ms. JANA MASHONEE (American Indian Singer): My name is Jana Mashonee. I am an American Indian singer. I've been singing for about eight years and I have a Christmas CD that I just released, and it's a different type of CD. It has 10 Christmas songs. I sing in 10 different Native American languages.

(Soundbite of "Amazing Grace")

Ms. MASHONEE: (Singing in Native American language)

Anyone who's heard this "American Indian Christmas" has said even though the language is not what they understand they know the songs already. You know, people know "Silent Night." They know "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful." So they're familiar already so that's already a starting point. And then when you add the native language it's `Oh, this is nice.' You know, some people have never even heard a native language spoken, much less sung.

(Soundbite of "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful")

Ms. MASHONEE: (Singing in Native American language)

I was born in Lumberton, North Carolina, and the Lumbee Tribe, which is the tribe that I'm from, there's about 50,000 members and we have a community. We are a state-recognized tribe, and that's what I call home.

I decided about singing probably when I was about 16 years old. I was--started singing in church and I got inspired by gospel music. And my dad is a musician. He's a singer and a drummer. My brother is a drummer as well. So music has been in the family but it wasn't really a career option until probably when I was in college I got my first record deal.

My favorite Christmas song is "Oh, Holy Night," and it's sung in Navajo.

(Soundbite of "Oh, Holy Night")

Ms. MASHONEE: (Singing in Navajo)

I would have to say out of the 10 languages that I am singing in, the Navajo language is--at least, I mean, for me it was the toughest language to speak and sing.

(Soundbite of "Oh, Holy Night")

Ms. MASHONEE: (Singing in Navajo)

There's a lot of glottal stops. There's a lot of things that you would do with your throat that for a normal singer is a no-no. The breath is coming through your throat as opposed to your--(makes noise)--like that--your diaphragm. So it's like (Navajo spoken) and that's the first--it's "Oh, Holy Night."

(Soundbite of "Oh, Holy Night")

Ms. MASHONEE: (Singing in Navajo)

I hear people--it's always a reference to Pocahontas because that's the only image when you mention Native American woman that's close to any--something that's attractive. I am trying to show people that the Native American women live today. We don't wear just loincloths and walk around New York with a feather in our hair. I feel that if I can be a positive role model or a positive face towards native people, then I'm very happy with being responsible for that.

CHADWICK: Singer Jana. Her album is called "American Indian Christmas."

(Soundbite of "Oh, Holy Night")

Ms. MASHONEE: (Singing in Navajo)

CHADWICK: Next week my colleague Madeleine Brand, who often co-hosts the show, will be away. So will I. So the program will be hosted by Farai Chideya. Welcome her.

DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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