In addition to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there is the traditional Christmas song. There are many; songs about jingle-bells, the omnipresent Santa Claus and his helpers, and, of course, the glorious birth of Jesus. If you think about it, Christmas is the only holiday peppered with so many songs. Aside from the glittering tinsel, the songs are what fill us with that deep sense of nostalgia. No matter how old you are, the fat man in the one horse open sleigh will always bring a promise of a gift. And the sleeping Holy Infant will always give you a promise of peace.
The Christmas song welcomes us into our local shopping malls, office buildings, churches, or favorite restaurants. For some of us these sounds help to ease the stress, for others the songs tap into the wonder of the holiday, for some the songs offer an excuse to party. Not only are they nostalgic, the songs are diverse, spanning many different genres and languages. Hearing the spirit of the Christmas holiday is just as important as the narrative connected to it.
Every year a new twist on old familiar traditional Christmas songs come our way. And memorable versions of at least one Christmas song (secular or religious), if not an entire album, have been done by many musicians throughout the years. Songs ranging from 50s Rock 'N Rollers, to Punk Rockers, to Hip-Hoppers have entertained us since St. Francis of Assisi, in 1223 AD, started nativity plays in Italy.
Recently, Ximena Borges has stepped into this universal web of Christmas song cornucopia with her new album Joyful Noise. Some of her songs are very spiritual, and some are sassy. She does it acapella -- one voice, one body, five languages. It is mind-boggling how Ximena gets so many sounds from her own body, but she does magnificently enchant by snapping her fingers, clapping her hands, pounding her chest, whistling, rolling her tongue just to name a few sound maneuvers. The juxtaposition of these intriguing sounds with her sweet opera voice makes for agreeable listening.
Joyful Noise starts off with "Crunchy Drummer Boy" a remake of the 1941 "Little Drummer Boy". This funky, jazzy, and hip version of a poor boy playing drums for Infant Jesus puts the "pa rum pum pum pum" in the effort. What follows is "Kurt Tannembaum", a German version of "Oh Christmas Tree" with a cabaret twist. By the third track, Borges gets reverent with a traditional French carol published in 1862 rejoicing the birth of the Holy Child. She turns to a Venezuelan traditional song "Niño Lindo", sung as a Spanish tanquillo. Here, she shows off her vocal chops while texturing the song with claps and rolling tongue. The most beautiful song on the album is Ximena's multilingual "Noche de Bach" and the sexiest is "Santa Baby".
Her Joyful Noise songs are familiar. Christmas is habitual. The familiar Christmas songs help in retelling chapters of a holiday multiculturally celebrated by loving, cheering, gifting, and remembering. Perhaps this is why there are so many songs.
You can listen to Ximena Borges's Joyful Noise On BandCamp