Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Malawi’s Christmas Carols

For years, towards, during and after Christmas day, we have sung, heard or listened to Christmas songs as well as Christmas carols.

In our Churches, this period is dominated by practices of the said songs.

Wikipedia, says a Christmas carol which is also called a noël is a carol, meaning a song or hymn, whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas.
The Malawi music industry has failed to take advantage of the hype that goes with Christmas festivities to release either Christmas songs or redo the Christmas carols in vernacular.
Apart from Kapirintia – a duet of Code and Brother Shadre Sangala, there has not been any serious artist who has tried to fill houses with their own versions of Christmas carols or songs.
Christmas in Malawi would never be the same if our musicians would have taken advantage of their mother tongues and equally removed the concept of white Christmas which means is one for the West.
The online www.carols.org.com is indicative that as Africans and as Malawians we do not have much to do with these things as the online chronicles it this way:
Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced round stone circles.
The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, usually taking place around the 22nd December. The word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived!
Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones. In AD 129, a Roman Bishop said that a song called 'Angel's Hymn' should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. Another famous early Christmas Hymn was written, in 760AD, by Comas of Jerusalem for the Greek Orthodox Church.
Soon after this many composers all over Europe started to write carols. However, not many people liked them as they were all written and sung in Latin, a language that the normal people couldn't understand. By the time of the Middles Ages (the 1200s), most people had lost interest in celebrating Christmas altogether.
This was changed by St. Francis of Assisi when, in 1223, he started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or 'canticles' that told the story during the plays.
Sometimes, the choruses of these new carols were in Latin; but normally they were all in a language that the people watching the play could understand and join in! The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries.
The earliest carol, like this, was written in 1410. Sadly only a very small fragment of it still exists. The carol was about Mary and Jesus meeting different people in Bethlehem. Most Carols from this time and the Elizabethan period are untrue stories, very loosely based on the Christmas story, about the holy family and were seen as entertaining rather than religious songs.
And that they were usually sung in homes rather than in churches! Travelling singers or Minstrels started singing these carols and the words were changed for the local people wherever they were travelling. One carols that changed like this is 'I Saw Three Ships'.
Surely, based on the above excerpts, we might think we have no place in this Christmas carols history, but I still there is something that we can do about it.
As Malawi we can get creative and have our own Christmas carols and music. In that way Christmas would be purely recognised as our own.
What is more funny is that reggae musicians of Rastafarie practice would tell you that as believers we need to see our God in our own spectacles because we were created in his image.
They also argue that Jesus Christ was black and therefore the Christmas Carols should not be the adopted white songs...
All this is out of question, what is important is that we need to create global unity by bringing together our diversified artistic talents.
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