Silent night, holy night
All is calm, and all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Christmas is round the corner, and if you haven’t heard this Christmas carol yet, no doubt you soon will. Most likely, you’ll sing along!
Sydney’s Radhika Sukumar-White has been singing this particular number for a few weeks now. The words she uses are different, though. They are in her native tongue Tamil.
She recorded it for a new album just released, Sounds of Christmas from Asia Pacific.
The community music album, a multilingual and intercultural project, features eight Sydney-based vocalists, representing eight different languages – Samoan, Indonesian, Filipino, Japanese, Tongan, Tamil, Fijian, and Mandarin.
Radhika’s Saanthi Vela is just as comforting and evoking of peace as the original.
Speaking of the wonder of a newborn baby, the song can be traced back to 1818, written by a young Austrian priest Joseph Moir and set to music by Franz X Gruber. Nearly a hundred years later, it featured famously during the Christmas Truce in World War I, when it was sung by French, German and English soldiers simultaneously in their languages.
“To be able to sing it in Tamil and showcase my heritage, was a great opportunity,” Radhika revealed.
She added that she was drawn to the project also because it represents ‘diversity, respect and inclusion.’
“Growing up, my family celebrated Christmas day with a traditional Christmas lunch with a mix of Tamil curries. I really do love that Australia is a melting pot of cultures. I believe that this album, showcasing the diverse communities in Sydney, will also help to break down all the barriers of society whilst showcasing our shared humanity.”
Her all-time favourite Christmas song, however, she confessed, is It came upon the midnight clear.
Kevin Bathman and Benjamin Oh, producers of the album Sounds of Christmas from Asia Pacific, developed and conceptualised the project during lockdown this year.
They wrote, “Christmas is now taken as both a religious as well as a secular end-of-year celebration, many people taking this time to relax, reflect, leisure and celebrate with their loved ones and community. For some, Christmas is also a difficult and lonely time, especially for those who are culturally minoritised, those being marginalised for who they are, or separated from their loved ones or community. The Sounds of Christmas from Asia Pacific album hopes to reach out to them, reminding them that diverse Sydneysiders are an inclusive and affirming community that welcomes them.”
“50 per cent of profits raised from the sale of the CD album will go towards seeding funds for the next album; 25 per cent will go to support Mudgin-gal Women’s Place, an Aboriginal Women-led organisation that provides vital services for vulnerable women in the Sydney community; and 25 per cent will go to support The House of Welcome that provides shelter to the people seeking asylum and refugees regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, nationality or religion.”
The project was supported by the City of Sydney’s Matching Grant program.