Syriac Chants: Joseph Palackal Interview

>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington DC.>>Nancy Groce: Hello,
it’s May 31st, 2018. My name is Nancy Groce. I’m with the American
Folklife Center here at the Library of Congress. And I’m delighted to be,
have today Joseph Palackal. Am I pronouncing that right?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Palackal.>>Nancy Groce: Palackal. And Dr. Palackal has just
given a presentation as part of the Botkin Series on
Syriac music and chant. And we’re going to be
talking about his career as an ethnomusicologist
and as a musician. And welcome. We’re delighted to have you.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Thank you, Nancy. It’s so great to be here
in this great institution.>>Nancy Groce: Well, you just
did a wonderful discussion on your specialty of.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Syriac.>>Nancy Groce: Syriac.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Aramaic.>>Nancy Groce: Syriac,
Aramaic chant.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Chant.>>Nancy Groce: Right.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes.>>Nancy Groce: And
can we just start with the beginning
of your career. Where were you from originally?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: I am
originally from Pallippuram. My native place in
Kerala, India.>>Nancy Groce: How
do you spell that?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Pallippuram, P-a-l-l-i-p-p-u-r-a-m. A small town on the western
coast of India in Kerala. And it is amazing. I grew up in the
Syriac tradition of the Syro-Malabar Church. Now, Syro-Malabar Church
is one of eight churches, Syriac churches of the
St. Thomas Christians. Our forefathers traced
the origin of their faith to Thomas the apostle. And that’s how the Aramaic
tradition came there. And I belong to one
of the churches, the Syro-Malabar Church. And, when I was a small boy,
I served mass in Syriac. It was still in Syriac. And we would write the
text in Malayalam script. So they will serve
the mass saying. [ Foreign Language Spoken ] Which is the “Our Father.” We would learn it by heart. And didn’t know exactly
what was happening, but we still did that. And in 1962, the liturgy was
translated into the vernacular. But early on there was an
interesting phenomenon. The people who translated the
chants kept the original melody. And translated the text
into the Syriac [inaudible] original melody. So the melody continued. I will sing an example. [ Singing ] It’s a beautiful
chant in the voice of the dead priest,
the deceased priest. So the dead body of the
deceased priest is lying down there for burial. So they, the choir
sings this chant. Which is in the narrative
voice of the dead priest. [ Foreign Language Spoken ] Oh, church, let me bid
farewell to you, [foreign word]. Peace. I am going,
please pray for me.>>Nancy Groce: So this would be
part of the funeral rites for.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
For the priest.>>Nancy Groce: Priest.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: In
the Syro-Malabar Church. And what happened when
it was translated, they kept the melody. And now going to sing
the current contemporary Malayalam version.>>Nancy Groce: Okay. [ Singing ]>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Oh,
I am messing up the text. We will cut this out.>>Nancy Groce: We
will take, yeah.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yeah.>>Nancy Groce: Do you
want to do it again?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
I’ll have to sing it.>>Nancy Groce: That’s okay. Because we’ll go back and
get it some other time. But my question is. [ Multiple Speakers ]>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Okay,
we well get another song. We just Syriac and
Malayalam version.>>Nancy Groce: Okay. So the, would the text
be the same in both? [ Multiple Speakers ]>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Almost. Not entirely. It is not a verbatim
translation. But sometimes the
sense is being used.>>Nancy Groce: Where do
you think the melodies came from in the first place?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: That
is a million dollar question.>>Nancy Groce: Are
they Indian melodies? Are they from the Middle East?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Probably from the Middle East. But these, some of the chants
could be of Indian origin. There are some chants which we
know for sure of Indian origin. From the 16th, 17th centuries. But these kind of
chants, we don’t know. All the text came
from the Middle East. But we don’t know if the
melody originated there, or they composed according to the Middle Eastern
manner of singing. For example. [ Multiple Speakers ]>>Nancy Groce: You
mean like modes?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Modes, modes, melodic modes. For example, there’s another
melody I will sing the first phrase both in the
Syriac and Malayalam.>>Nancy Groce: Okay. [ Singing ]>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: The
first two phrases of that song. Which is [inaudible]. [ Singing ] Okay, that also has to be cut. [ Singing ] Here, the answer
to your question. The sense, not only the
sense, most of the ideas in the original Syriac is
translated into Malayalam. Qurbana was the keyword
in the text. Qurban, offering. And that was translated in the Indian concert
of belli [phonetic]. Inherited from the
Hindu tradition, belli. Something that you offer to God. So [foreign words], my belli
in the place of qurban. Subtle, but beautiful rendering by a great priest Father
Abel Periyappuram, C.M.I.>>Nancy Groce: Do you know
who made the translations?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Yes, yes. Father Abel Periyappuram, C.M.I. He died in 2001.>>Nancy Groce: Oh, so
it’s a fairly recent.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes.>>Nancy Groce: Yes. I noticed, when you
sing, you use your head. Is that because you’ve lead
choirs for so many years?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Could be.>>Nancy Groce: Does that
just help you remember the ornamentation?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Could be. Could be it’s a natural flow. It was not meditative.>>Nancy Groce: Let me go back
and ask you about yourself. Now, your family, tell me a
little bit about your family.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
My family connected with the Syriac tradition. My [inaudible] was Palackal
Thoma Malpan, a saint. We treat him as a saint.>>Nancy Groce: And
what do you mean by you?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
He was a saintly priest. Malpan is a Syriac word. It’s an honorary title given
to someone who knows Syriac. Who has the ability to be
preceptor for seminarians. And who can teach Syriac
language and liturgy. So that honorary, it is
like equivalent to doctor in our present understanding. So he knew enough, the language and the liturgy and
the melodies. So we was, conferred on
him the title of malpan. Palackal Thoma is the name. Malpan is the doctor
suffix to that. And he, one of his disciples
has been recently elevated to the status of a saint, so.>>Nancy Groce: And
when did he live though?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
He was born in 1740, 1780. 1841 he died. So I haven’t seen him. But I grew up listening
about stories about him. Because I live in the
same, how do you say, not patriarchal,
traditional property. [foreign word], the family
property where he lived. And he served the
neighboring church. And I was born in that family,
and I served the church.>>Nancy Groce: But would he
have been actually a blood ancestor of yours or? [ Multiple Speakers ]>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Yes, yes, yes.>>Nancy Groce: Yes, yes, yes.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Very much. Very much. And answer to one of your
earlier questions before the interview. I, he was a source
of inspiration for me to become a priest. Because my father adored him
and venerated him as a saint. And I used to hear all
these stories about him. So I wanted to become a priest. And guess what? I became a member of the
religious congregation within Syro-Malabar
Church, which he founded. So look at the design of things. And then for some
reason I took up studies in Syriac music, Syriac chant. And now that has
become my life mission. It was just his life mission. So there is a design that
was beyond my calculation. It just happened. But that, I want to add one more
curious information about me.>>Nancy Groce: Yeah.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: My
baptismal name is Ouseph. Ouseph.>>Nancy Groce: How
do you spell that?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
O-u-s-e-p-h, Ouseph. Which is the Malayalam
Kerala version of Joseph. Yoseph, the Hebrew Aramaic
Yoseph becomes Ouseph. So that’s how I was baptized. Because it was still
a Syriac tradition. And the priest who baptized me, I checked by baptismal
record during my daughter recitation days. Found that Joseph [inaudible]
was the priest who baptized me. He signed his name in the Syriac
script Ouseph [inaudible]. What a coincidence. And here we are sitting
in America at the Library of Congress and talking
about Syriac chants.>>Nancy Groce: Were
you always musical?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes. I started singing at the church. Interestingly, my debut singing.>>Nancy Groce: Yes.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Was in Aramaic. Syriac chant while I was an
[inaudible] in my home parish. The parish of Palackal
Thoma Malpan. There is a, our principal
feast is August 15th. Assumption of the
Blessed Virgin. So the local sacrist will select
talented boys and train them to sing at a function. And he, when I was eight or
nine, he selected me to sing. And I sang the chant that we
heard in the video earlier. [ Singing ] It’s hymn to the blessed
on this festival day. Let’s us make a garland
crown of flowers and put it on the blessed virgin. So that was my first,
it so happened that was my first debut. I still remember the
tension with standing in the back in the sacristy. Your knees jerk whether you
will sing it correct or not. And the sacrist is waiting to, watching you whether you are
singing the melody correct and so on. And then left that tradition. [inaudible] became Malayalam. I learned Malayalam songs. Malayalam hymns [inaudible]
and continued that. And became a professional singer
of Christian devotional songs from the gramophone
recorder era. My first gramophone record
was released in 1977. EP, 45 RPM record.>>Nancy Groce: And who
were you listening to? And, but not in Syriac?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
No, not in Syriac. Not in Syriac. By that time it was
in Malayalam. [ Multiple Speakers ] So I was listening to
the contemporary singers. And the songs were composed,
I didn’t compose the song. The song was composed by a professional film
movie music director. And we went to the [inaudible], the company had a
branch in India. So the recording was done there. And the 45 RPM record. And then later I have an LP
record of Christian Bhajans. Semi-classic. By the time I got interested in
the Indian classical tradition, there was a move toward
indigenizing Christian worship, making it Indian. So I learned that kind of music. And that became part of
the long play record. [ Singing ] The Hindu concept of,
I shouldn’t say Hindu, Indian concept of God of ohm. [ Singing ] This is the second side of
the LP was opening track. Controversial, I was
criticized for using ohm.>>Nancy Groce: By the
Christian community? [ Multiple Speakers ]>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: By
the Christians [inaudible].>>Nancy Groce: Were
you in seminary already?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Yes, yes, yes, I was in seminary by that time. I was not ordained a priest yet. The further I started singing for the Bangalore
All India Radio and sing for radio stations.>>Nancy Groce: So you’re
doing it commercially?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Yes, yes. And then turned to, I was more
comfortable singing Christian devotional songs. And henceforward it was
Christian devotional songs for performance for recordings. And then cassettes and CDs. And then when I came to
America, it is amazing. I discovered my roots
in this country.>>Nancy Groce: How so?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Because when I started my Ph.D., I wanted to do something
that nobody else has done.>>Nancy Groce: Yeah. So you came originally
to, because you wanted to get a Masters
in ethnomusicology. [ Multiple Speakers ]>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: I came.>>Nancy Groce: Tell
me how, did you study in India also [inaudible]?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: I studied Hindustani
classical music in India. Got my Masters degree in
Hindustani, North Indian.>>Nancy Groce: And
where did do you that?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Baroda. MS, Maharaja Sayajirao
University in Baroda.>>Nancy Groce: Okay.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: And I had a great
teacher, [inaudible]. And the [inaudible] that we
were talking about earlier was, that was his, he was the one
who mediated [inaudible]. [ Multiple Speakers ]>>Nancy Groce: Because
you also play instruments?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes.>>Nancy Groce: So you
play tanbur [phonetic]?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Tambaroo, tambaroo [phonetic]. You, it’s like a drone
instrument using, you play that and sing against its background. It gives you the drone against, like in Hindustani
classical music. So when I came to Graduate
Center for the Ph.D., I wanted to do a topic
that nobody else has done. And during the course
work Professor Steven Blum at the Graduate Center
knew my interest and my leaning towards
[inaudible]. So in the samples he would
include Syriac chants from the Middle East. I [inaudible] in a course with
him on music of the Middle East. And he was, so I was captivated. And then I wanted to
see the connection between the Middle
Eastern because the origin of the language and
music is there.>>Nancy Groce: Had you
realized that before? Were you very aware?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Not at all.>>Nancy Groce: Talk a little,
if you would talk a little bit about the St. Thomas and
his relation to India. And the beginnings
of the church.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Okay. We believe that St.
Thomas came to India to Kerala, my home state. So there’s a deep
connection there.>>Nancy Groce: This is
Thomas who was the apostle?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: The apostle who made the
proclamation in front of Jesus [foreign
word] in Aramaic. His mother turned saint. Lord, my Lord and my God. Meaning that you
are man and God. So he seemed to have, he’s
believed to have come there and preached the news. And he died, and so his
tomb is in South India. And so I grew up
listening to those stories. And my home parish somehow
connects his history to one of the churches that
the communities that the saint is presumed
to have established in the neighboring town. There’s a cross that
is [inaudible]. So he established
the church there. And there came to be
a cross [inaudible]. And that cross, the Hindus
threw away in the river. And it came to our area. And that cross is being,
so that cross is the symbol of my Aramaic project
on the web page.>>Nancy Groce: Oh,
I’ve seen that, yes.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
So, yeah, yeah. So from childhood onwards I
am listening to these stories. I mean, I’m inundated
with, from my father who was a great believer.>>Nancy Groce: What
was your father’s name?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Joseph again.>>Nancy Groce: Oh, yes, okay.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: I
am glad he has that name. It was given by mistake. I should not have been Joseph.>>Nancy Groce: Why?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Because I am the firstborn male. And I should have got the son of my grandfather,
which is [inaudible]. My aunt and her husband
took the baby for baptism. In those days the mother didn’t
go to, she waited for 40.>>Nancy Groce: Forty
days to the church.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Yes, yes. So my aunt went, took me
to, the baby to the baptism. And the baptism was
in Syriac, Aramaic. All the rituals were in Aramaic. So during the service,
the priest, in those days they
looked up to priests as.>>Nancy Groce: As we still do.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: So in
between the priest turned around and asked my aunt, what’s
the name of the baby? In her fright, in her,
so she said Ouseph. That is my father’s name. So the priest baptized
me Ouseph. Only later when they
came home and they said, she said baptism name is Ouseph, there was a big commotion
in the family. The grandfather is
unhappy definitely.>>Nancy Groce: Is it, in
some traditions naming a child after a living person is
considered very bad luck. Is that not there?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Not at all.>>Nancy Groce: Just your
grandfather felt left out.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes.>>Nancy Groce: Okay.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: His
name should have come to me. And then family waited for another few years
for my brother. I have a brother [inaudible]. Who, in fact, is
closely associated with this Aramaic project. He’s in charge of
the project in India. So he got the name
that I should have got. Mix up. Yeah. So that is, somehow
I feel a kind of divine ordination
in all this. And, finally, Syriac becomes my,
this project becomes my life. And for the rest of my active
years, I’ll be working on this and building up materials. And creating awareness. And I’m happy that
the youngsters in America are picking on it. So eventually the
history of this language and music will be
American story, but it will be part
of their story.>>Nancy Groce: Now, talk a
little bit about your teaching. Because you’re teaching people
in this country Aramaic.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes.>>Nancy Groce: Yeah, so.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes. Mostly young people. I, when I go for mass, I make
sure that they also sing one or two Aramaic chants as they
did, Falls Church, Virginia.>>Nancy Groce: So you
have your own parish?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
I have my own parish.>>Nancy Groce: And
how big is it? And where is it?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: It’s a small parish
in Maspeth, New York. Queens, New York. So that is a Roman rite parish. So I stay there. I work as a priest,
associate pastor there. So with the resources and the
time I get, I use for this. So when I go to Syro-Malabar
Indian expatriate in Indian communities, I teach
them these Syriac chants. I teach them easy to
sing Syriac chants. So one song, one
chant that I teach, one the youngsters are
familiar is the [foreign word]. Holy God, holy mighty one, holy
mortal one have mercy on us. Can I sing that?>>Nancy Groce: Yes, please. [ Singing ]>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
[foreign word], holy God. [ Singing ] That performance, that is
something that I added to this. Three times saying holy,
holy, holy [foreign word]. So that is now catching up. So it’s creating for the
editor that short thing has to be done once again.>>Nancy Groce: Okay.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: So
maybe I’ll sing it once again.>>Nancy Groce: Oh, okay. [ Singing ]>>Nancy Groce: It’s lovely.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes. It has a Middle Eastern flavor. At the same time, probably
it was composed in Kerala. So the concept of Middle East,
the music and the culture, that is so much a part of
this community at one point. Because there was an immigration
of Christians from Persia.>>Nancy Groce: And
when did that happen? [ Multiple Speakers ]>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
In the fourth century.>>Nancy Groce: Fourth century.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yeah. And that brought
the Syriac liturgy. And the Syriac tradition
continued. Bishops came from
the Middle East. We were treated like a sister
church of the Chaldean church. So that’s why we have a Chaldean
Syriac, which is East Syriac. So in the song that I sang,
you will hear [foreign word]. Whereas in the wester
Syriac [foreign words]. So we preserve the east
Syriac pronunciation. Which some scholars say
probably was the original way of saying those things. In the [inaudible],
you heard one scholar, Dr. Thomas Quinnamark
[assumed spelling]. And he said the way we,
the Syriac Christians, the Chaldean Christians
pronounce words probably that in the pre-Christian
pronunciation inherited from the Jewish people. He especially mentioned about
the word “taw,” the last letter of Hebrew Aramaic alphabet, taw. So if you put a dot under
taw, it is pronounced almost like [phonetic sound]. That’s why he said [foreign
word], but you say Assyrians. Yeah, a subtle, so it
is a creative thing that these people
are still preserving that ancient pronunciation.>>Nancy Groce: So when the
Middle East was basically, it become under the
influence of Islam, it would be the 7th century.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes.>>Nancy Groce: Then
that change, so in some ways you were. [ Multiple Speakers ]>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes. The pronunciation changed.>>Nancy Groce: Yeah.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Even
the language was suppressed. So the scenario in
the Middle East and [inaudible] are
totally different. In the Middle East
they were suppressed. The, so they had to change. The daily conversation
became Arabic. So they lost that Syriac, quite
a bit of original pronunciation. They, those churches,
the Chaldean churches, they still preserve
Syriac liturgy. They still chant. But the melodies
are very different from what we have in Kerala. So if they watch this interview and if they watch the way
I sang, they would say, this doesn’t sound right. This sounds very different.>>Nancy Groce: Is there
any relations that you found as a scholar between
Hebrew liturgy and the melodies you’re
using, the Hebrew?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Not yet. I haven’t delved, I haven’t
given attention to that. There may be. In fact, it’s interesting
that you asked that question. In the CD that I “Qambel Maran”
the second track is sung. [ Singing ] I have been asking
some people to see if, first of all, it is a song. It’s a Syriac translation
of a song which was originally in Hebrew. So, and the word, the opening
words are [foreign words], which is the same as in Hebrew. Same as for the Jewish people.>>Nancy Groce: Yeah.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Praise, praise. So I’m still inquiring if
that melody has a Jewish root. If one day, if somebody finds it
out, that will be fascinating. Because, I’m glad you
brought this issue. Because there are many
Jewish customs that, in the Syro-Malabar Christians. Many Jewish customs.>>Nancy Groce: Really?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes.>>Nancy Groce: Like what?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Like women, not now, but women didn’t go to church
until 40 days after childbirth. Then offering the first
fruits to the church. If you planted a coconut
tree, and the first coconut that you plucked, you will
bring it to the church. You planted a mango tree, you will bring those
fruits to the church. And then, most important,
we have a Passover meal. Yes.>>Nancy Groce: What
do you call it?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Pesaha.>>Nancy Groce: Pesaha.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
On holy Thursday. On holy Thursday we prepare
a special kind of bread and a concoction of milk. And then we have a
religious service at home. And who presides the service? The oldest male member. And then we children, we all
stand there with great devotion as if this father
is like a priest. And he makes prayers. And then he cuts this
bread and gives to you. And he wouldn’t just go
and take it like that. He will go with reverence as if
you were receiving communion. So I still remember
that experience of it as a boy standing in our home
and getting this from my father. And you look at your father from
a very different perspective. As if you look at
him as a priest. So he was a priest,
truly a Jewish tradition. And there’s unleavened bread. And so probably the Jewish
Christian immigrants brought that tradition here. And that tradition continues. This tradition still continues
in some of the families. Yeah. That’s fascinating how.>>Nancy Groce: Was
there any songs, any music that was
not liturgical? Were there any popular songs or
children’s songs or lullabies that continued in Syriac
outside the church?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know if music melodies
were used outside the liturgy. Outside the official liturgy,
there are paraliturgical songs. But still, it is on the border.>>Nancy Groce: On the border.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: But at
home, I never thought like that at home for a mother to
put a child to sleep, would you sing in Syriac.>>Nancy Groce: Maybe
you should ask. It might be all around you.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes.>>Nancy Groce: Sometimes
those are older. [ Multiple Speakers ]>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Yeah, that’s right. I never thought along
those lines. I should ask next time
when I see old people. Did you ever sing Syriac
chants to your baby. Was [inaudible]. [ Multiple Speakers ]>>Nancy Groce: Or
even secular songs.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Secular songs. Yeah, that never occurred to me.>>Nancy Groce: Okay,
I’d be interested. If you find out, I’d
be very interested.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Definitely. You put a fire in my brain.>>Nancy Groce: What else
should we know about your work, what you’re doing now?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: I’m
trying to create awareness of all this music relation. Because not only music
tradition, language. The languages [inaudible]. The sound of the language. The phonemes of language. And thought process that is, each language has its
own way of thinking. So that treasure
that is associated with the language,
the thought process. The sound has, have
to be preserved. So that’s what I
am trying to do. So there’s significance
beyond my religion. Beyond, it is an intangible
world cultural heritage. Imagine if we knew the sound
of hieroglyphics from Egypt. We waited so long to
[inaudible] set our table to know how to read that. But imagine if somebody
had documented the sound. So that’s what I am doing
now, documenting the sound. 200 years, 500 years from
now, if someone wanted to know how did this
language sound in India or the Middle East or in
different parts of India? Then we have documentation. So I’m excited to contribute
to the treasures of humanities. This is a treasure of humanity,
and we shouldn’t let it go. And I truly appreciate,
Nancy, because of our meeting at the society of ethnomusicology
conference, you can know me. Then we had a discussion. You decided to connect me
with the Library of Congress. Connect me to Harvey
[inaudible]. And it is going to, the discussion is
going to come here. So those, the sounds, the
melodies the memories, the interviews are
going to be housed in this great institution. So I’m happy that you came
into my life in this case. And we made all this.>>Nancy Groce: And we’re
delighted to have you. But what’s next? So you’re continuing
to collect; right?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes.>>Nancy Groce: And you start,
did you start collecting Syriac for your dissertations?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes.>>Nancy Groce: Specifically?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Yes, yes. And during, while
doing the dissertation at the Graduate Center of the
city university of New York, I thought I should
do a recording. So I consulted with
Professor Blum. So I took like two
years spent on that. That was the Syriac,
“Qambel Maran, Syriac Chants From South India.” That was, we have a copy here. And you have cataloged it. So that, look at that, most
of the priests who sang in that CD are already gone. And we got examples
of vocal inflection. Because the vocal inflection
of the senior priests who sang in that CD is different
than the vocal inflection of the younger priests.>>Nancy Palackal: Really?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes. So the younger priests, the older priests were
groomed in that tradition. They grew up in that tradition. They used the language. So the tongue, the vocal cords
became comfortable with it. Whereas, the younger priests, my generation didn’t
get that chance. We didn’t read the liturgy
of the hours in Syriac. So we just sang a few melodies. So our vocal inflection
is very different. My vocal inflection
is very different from the inflection
of a senior priest. So that’s CD is a treasure. Because we have captured,
most important that CD is, the priest who translated
the chants from Syriac to Malayalam is one
of the singers. And the title of the CD
is “Qambel Maran” based on the track, that
particular song which I sang. [ Singing ] And he sang that
song in that CD. It is such a precious treasure. And I cannot sing as well as him because he vocal
inflection’s different. Because he’s used to
singing it every day. Whereas, I sing it occasionally.>>Nancy Groce: In the lyrics,
the liturgy is written down. But the music is
not written down?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: No, no. You learn it by hearing. Yeah. And this is like
Hindustani classical music. You can write, writing
it successfully to a certain extent. You can write the notations. But the particular
inflections you need to hear.>>Nancy Groce: And are those
inflections, those nuances and, when you’re singing in Syriac. Are they related to any of the
surrounding Indian traditions?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
I don’t think so. There are certain examples. For example, there’s a
melody that is appropriate from the Syriac melody. I’m singing in Malayalam. [ Singing ] I’ll sing it again. [ Singing ] I will say the people who sang
that, model after Syriac melody. But that’s pretty much, I cannot
find anymore direct relation with that tradition here. Now, whether the
vocal inflection and melodic formula is going
into the Syriac chant or whether that was the implication
that your question.>>Nancy Groce: Yeah.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Yeah, I don’t know yet. I don’t know. No. Okay, good. There’s one chant,
there are some chants, from the Portuguese era where you translate
Latin, chant into Syriac. One example is they
used local rhythm. [ Singing ] So this has a local flavor. Especially the [inaudible]. [ Singing ] One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two, three. One, two, three. Relaxing on one, three. And one, two, three. One, two, three, four. Seven beats into three units. [ Inaudible Comment ] Yeah. So that rhythm is
definitely local, and. [ Singing ] See the progression of notes. It’s not much Middle Eastern. It is more that [inaudible]. [ Singing ] [ Multiple Speakers ] [ Singing ] So that is probably local
flavor coming into Syriac text.>>Nancy Groce: Interesting.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yeah. There are, now that you’re
asking, there are other examples that were composed in India. [ Singing ] This is the credo. I believe in one God. So those melodies that
were created in Kerala, they used local idioms
for singing Syriac texts. But this is a topic of
a doctoral dissertation for the next generation.>>Nancy Groce: Well, I
could go on, and I just, we’ll have to continue
this at some other time.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes.>>Nancy Groce: What’s
your next, where is your research
taking you now?>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
The next step is I want to create an album
of select chants from the East Syriac tradition. And put it out there for the
world to critique or listen. That’s one project. Then do much more recordings. And document as much
as possible, as long as I have active years. I started late. But it was God’s wish. So I hope, my sincere hope is
that someone will take up this as a topic for doctoral
dissertation and start where I ended. And it will go on.>>Nancy Groce: Well,
thank you so much for coming to the library. It’s been an honor to have you. And we look forward to working
with you in the years to come.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: Yes. Thank you for this
collaboration. I truly appreciate
your initiative.>>Nancy Groce: Our pleasure. Thank you.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal: And
thank you for asking questions on areas which I haven’t
given much thought.>>Nancy Groce: Okay,
which will be continued. We’ll continue this.>>Dr. Joseph Palackal:
Thank you so much.>>Nancy Groce: Okay, thank you.>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at

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