Yes, it's that time of year, which means it's time for the annual World "Holiday" Music Show (12/21)! Peppered throughout the two-hour program will be tunes not normally heard during the holiday season. Then, mixed throughout the rest of show, will be songs that fit perfectly into this time of year.
The kicker with this first hour is that two of the holiday songs, performed by Pink Martini, feature NPR political reporter Ari Shapiro. He'll be featured on two tracks that celebrate Hanukkah (yes, I know I'm late in playing music from this holiday, but, I like to wait until I can feature an entire show built around holidays). We'll hear him sing the song "Elohai, N'tzor," which is text from the closing of the "Amida" prayer; and we'll hear him again, singing the song "Ocho Kandelikas (Eight Little Candles)," which has a great Latin beat to it. Also in this belated Hanukkah celebration will be a track from a local musician from Burke, Va, Susan Gaeta. She'll sing the song "Las Tiyas," which is a song that celebrates the Sephardic traditions of the Jewish Holidays.
From there, we'll head down to New Orleans to hear some Cajun style Christmas music from James Andrews (who'll sing about "Christmas in New Orleans"), and from the New Birth Brass Band, who'll swing and sing about "Santa's Second Line." And we'll also hear the song "Jolly Old St. Nick," by the band Brave Combo.
A couple of highlights in another set of music will be one of my all-time favorite Christmas tunes, called "Here We Come A-Wassailing," by Kate Rusby. The song may be a traditional English melody that is more than one-hundred and twenty-five years-old, but when Rusby sings it, she makes it sound fresh. Wassailing, by the way, means carolling, as in going to door-to-door with friends and neighbors, singing Christmas tunes. The funny thing about this song, at least to me, is that before I even selected to play it (though, I like to play this every year), is that my family, friends and few neighbors attempted to go "A-Wassailing" last weekend. I say, attempted, because the weather was not cooperating. We managed to get to only two houses. Instead, the freinds all brought cookies and we made hot coccoa from scratch, and practiced singing by the fire. All the kids, friends from my eight-year-old daughter's second grade class, loved it! It was a fun new tradtion.
The other highlight I mentioned will be the song "I Believe in Father Christmas," done by U2. For the remainder of the first hour, we'll hear those "other" songs that aren't holiday tunes, but that seem to fit nicely in this line-up. From Iceland by way of Italy, we'll hear the singer Emiliana Torrini. And from way up north (no, not the North Pole), we'll hear some Canadian folk songs, which I'll then partner with some Irish music from Seamus Egan and The Chieftains (who partner with Joni Mitchell for a cover of one of her songs).
In hour two of this week's show, the holiday musc will take more of a backseat (though, there will be some surprise songs in this hour). Instead, we'll keep the mood mellow, (while also highlighting some new music) and we'll give a small tribute.
First, the tribute. We'll hear a track about a the struggles that were experienced during the Aparthied era in South Africa from the band Johnny Clegg and Savuka. Clegg experienced this struggles first hand, as his band was barred from playing in many places in South Africa, as well as on the radio, becuase his band was boldy interaccial--something that was illegal. This is the first of a small tribute we'll hear to the great Nelson Mandela, in the coming weeks.
And, to give our local RVA musicians some holiday treats, we'll hear songs by the bands Happy Lucky Combo and Rattlemouth. Then, to sneak in some new music, we'll hear two new songs from David Byrne's most recent release called "Love this Giant," which also features St. Vincent. For the rest of the hour, expect to hear songs from Zee Avi, Michael Kiwanuka and the Mexican band leader Esquival. Plus, we'll hear that really sweet medley of the songs "Over the Rainbow," and "What a Wonderful World," done Hawaiian slide guitar style by the gentle giant Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, who sadly become famous after his death for combining these two songs with his sweet, gentle voice.
All in all, this week's World Holiday Music Show will be a nice way to spend your Saturday night. Tune in at 8:00 p.m. on 88.9FM WCVE Richmond Public Radio or find the show online on this website. Plus, follow the show on Twitter, @wcveworldmusic.