Joseph J. Palackal
Joseph J. Palackal, the first Indian to perform in an Off Broadway show, singing a Christian devotional song in Hindi. Douglas Fairbanks Theater, New York. June 1990.
A Unique Musical Journey, Connecting the Dots between Two Complementary Concepts
Joseph J. Palackal, Ph. D. (Music) has already carved a niche for himself in the vast history of Indian music. Through his stage performances, commercial and research recordings, lectures, workshops, and writings Dr. Palackal has linked the musical geography of Christianity to India, and has aroused the curiosity of both scholars and laymen alike. By doing so, he has initiated a new discourse on India as also a Christian country. Although the primary focus of research is on Christian music, Palackal's interests vary widely from Jewish and tribal music of Kerala to art and religion, as well as archiving oral histories and speech patterns. Starting as a singer and recording artist, Dr. Palackal continues his musical journey on the road less travelled by exploring ever new ways to connect the dots between what he considers “the complementary concepts of India and Christianity”.
With Sarah and Jacob Cohen, at their residence at Jew Town, Kochi. March 1996.
Joseph J. Palackal is an Indic musicologist, singer and composer. He is also the Founder-President of the Christian Musicological Society of India and Nadopasana Thodupuzha. Dr. Palackal holds degrees in theology, psychology, Indian classical music and musicology. The master’s thesis he wrote at Hunter College, New York (1995), became a foundational work for launching a Christian musicology of India. Later, his dissertation on the Syriac chants in South India, at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (2005) became the first doctoral study of a Christian music genre in India. Dr. Palackal is the author of articles on Indian Christian music in several international journals and three encyclopedias, including the prestigious New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Oxford Music Online) and the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (New York). Recently, he contributed a chapter to The Oxford Handbook of Music and World Christianities (Oxford University Press).
Palackal Thoma Malpan
Offering the first copy of the LP record Christian Bhajans to His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Parecattil at the Cardinal's residence at Eranakulam. 21 October 1979.
Dr. Palackal is the lead singer in more than forty releases in five languages, including Sanskrit and Syriac. To his credit are the first LP record of Christian Bhajans in Malayalam (Deccan Records, Bangalore, 1979) and the first commercial CD of Syriac chants of the Syro-Malabar Church Qambel Maran: Syriac Chants from South India (PAN Records, Netherlands, 2002); both albums are landmarks in the history of Christian music in India. Dr. Palackal is the first Indian to perform in an Off Broadway show in New York by singing a Christian devotional song in Hindi. Other performance venues include Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, Princeton University and Columbia University. His internationally acclaimed documentary film, Kerala, the Cradle of Christianity in South Asia, is a pioneering attempt to educate the Western world about the uniqueness of Indian Christianity. In 2006, Dr. Palackal embarked on a mission of introducing Indian Christian art to the international community.
In front of Bolshoi Theater, Moscow, on the way to see the ballet, Giselle. 23 June 1993.
Ph. D. (Ethnomusicology), Graduate Center of the City University of New York, May 2005.
M. A. (Ethnomusicology), Hunter College-CUNY, May 1995.
B. P. A. (Hindustani Classical Music, vocal), The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, May 1986.
M. A. (Psychology), The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, November 1984.
B. Th. (Theology), Dharmaram Pontifical Institute, Bangalore, January 1980.
B. A. (Psychology), Bangalore University, December 1974.
Research and publications
Palackal, Joseph J. "The Survival Story of Syriac Chants among the St. Thomas Christians in South India" in The Oxford Handbook of Music and World Christianities, edited by Jonathan Dueck and Suzel A. Reily. Oxford University Press. (Forthcoming). Abstract.
Palackal, Joseph J. Documenting the Last Remnants of the Aramaic Language and Music among the Syro-Malabar Catholics in Kerala, India. Project in progress. Description
Palackal, Joseph J. Music & Colour: Oktoechos of the Orthodox Christians in Kerala. Sponsor: The Catholic University of America, Washington, D. C. Work in progress.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2013. Qurbānā ("Offering"): The Eucharistic Celebration of the Syro-Malabar Church.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2012. Homage to a Guru. Prepared for the 25th death anniversary celebration of Shri K.K.Antony Master
Palackal, Joseph J. 2012. Nadopasana Thodupuzha: Twenty-five years of Leadership in Music. Prepared for the Silver Jubilee celebrations. See Brochure . See Invitation
Palackal, Joseph J. 2008. Kerala, the Cradle of Christianity in South Asia: The Cultural Interface of Religion and Music (DVD).
Palackal, Joseph J. and Thaila, George. 2007. Solemn High Mass of the Syro-Malabar Church. [Musical setting of the English version of Mass in the Chaldean rite of the Syro-Malabar Church; CD with 16-page booklet, 7 photographs, music example, and bibliography; soloists: Joseph J. Palackal, Feba Thoyalil, and Marianne Thaila; recorded at Martin's Digital, Queens, New York] Chicago: St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago. (SMC 101 - 2007). Review : Paul D. Greene, Ethnomusicology, vol. 54, no. 2 (Spring/Summer 2010), p. 360. Library catalogs
Palackal, Joseph J., Thaila, George, and Kurisingal, Dennis. 2007. Qurbānā: Solemn High Mass of the Syro-Malabar Church. Music Notation [16 melodies for Mass in Western staff notation with chordal accompaniment; illustrations by Dan Fuller]. Chicago and Aluva: St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago and Christian Musicological Society of India.
Joseph J. Palackal. 2006. Notes on Persian Cross, Christ the Guru, and Mother of Wisdom.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2005. Syriac Chant Traditions in South India. A study of the contemporary practice of model melodies of the Chaldean rite in the Syro-Malabar Church, and the oktoechos ("eight voices") of the Antiochene rite in the Orthodox churches. Ph.D. dissertation. The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Director: Stephen Blum. (ProQuest ID 888835631). Abstract. Proposal.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2005. Kerala, Kochi, Trivandrum. Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, vol. 5: Asia and Oceania, edited by John Shepherd, et al. London and New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, pp. 91-92, 104-105, 117-118.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2004. Oktoechos of the Syrian Orthodox Churches in South India. Ethnomusicology, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 229-250. Abstract.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2004. "Interface Between History and Music in the Christian Context of South India." [A survey of the musical history of the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala, India, shows the mutuality of musical and historical inquiries in which musicological discourse assumes a significant role as a tool in historiography]. in Christianity and Native Cultures: Perspectives From Different Regions of the World. Cyriac Pullapilly, et al., eds. Notre Dame, Indiana: Cross Cultural Publications, pp. 150-161. Booklet: 2002.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2003. Kudumba praarthanayum bhajana gaanangalum [Family Prayer and Bhajan Songs] [Fr. Proksh SVD (1904-1986) was one of the pioneers in adapting the bhajan style of music in Catholic worship in India. In the 1960s, Dharmaram College and the National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Center (NBCLC), Bangalore, gave leadership in creating an "Indian liturgy" that adapted Hindu terminologies and Indian classical music. Although Indian liturgy has lost popularity, Christian bhajans continue to have currency among the Catholics in Kerala.] Kudumbadeepam (March 2003), pp. 6-8, 14. Language: Malayalam.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2002. [Reprint 2009]. Qambel Maran: Syriac Chants from South India. CD with 29 chants, 16-page booklet in English, map, 7 photographs, and bibliography. Chants in Syriac (Aramaic) from the Chaldean liturgy of the Syro-Malabar Church of the St. Thomas Christians. Includes chants from the liturgy of the Hours, Raza, funeral services, Syriac translation of Latin chants by St.Thomas Aquinas, and chants for special occasions such as wedding and celebration of the feast of the Blessed Virgin and saints. Performers include Fr. Abel Periyappuram, CMI (1920-2001), Fr. Probus Perumalil, CMI, et al. Recorded in Kerala, South India, in 1999 and 2000. (PAN 2085). Library catalogs & Reviews
Palackal, Joseph J. 2001. India: Christian Music. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2nd edn., vol. 12, edited by Stanley Sadie, John Tyrell. London: Macmillan Publishers, pp. 233-34, 237.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2001. Mando. [A composite genre of poetry, music, and dance, popular among the Catholics of Goa and the neighboring regions of the west coast of India]. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edn., vol. 15, edited by Stanley Sadie, John Tyrell. London: Macmillan Publishers, pp. 736-37.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2000. Kalayum kraisthawa wiswaasawum: oru bhaaratheeya samwaadam [Art and Christian Faith: an Indian Dialogue] [Christianity in India is believed to be as old as Christianity itself. Yet Christian artists in India, by and large, are reluctant to interpret faith through images inspired by their local cultures. Instead, most Christian families and institutions proudly exhibit pictures of blue-eyed, blond-haired Jesus and Mary, painted by European artists. By giving an Indian definition to Christian faith, artists can contribute not only to Catholic Christianity, but also to Indian art.] Sathyadeepam, vol. 74 (November 8, 2000), p. 5. Language: Malayalam.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2000. [Kerala] Christian Musical Traditions. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 5: South Asia: the Indian Subcontinent, edited by Alison Arnold. New York and London: Garland Publishing, pp. 944-947.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2000. [Kerala] Muslim Music. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 5: South Asia: the Indian Subcontinent, edited by Alison Arnold. New York and London: Garland Publishing, pp. 947-948.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2000. [Kerala] Jewish Music. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 5: South Asia: the Indian Subcontinent, edited by Alison Arnold. New York and London: Garland Publishing, pp. 948-949.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2000. [Kerala] Tribal Music. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 5: South Asia: the Indian Subcontinent, edited by Alison Arnold. New York and London: Garland Publishing, p. 949.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2000. [Kerala] Folk Music. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 5: South Asia: the Indian Subcontinent, edited by Alison Arnold. New York and London: Garland Publishing, p. 950.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2000. [Kerala] Film Music. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 5: South Asia: the Indian Subcontinent, edited by Alison Arnold. New York and London: Garland Publishing, p. 951. Review: "The articles on Kerala, by Groesbeck and Palackal, and Sri Lanka, by Sheeran, are two of the very best in the entire encyclopedia." -- Wolf, Richard K. 2004. Book Review: Alison Arnold, ed., The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: South Asia: the Indian Subcontinent, Ethnomusicology, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 278-283.
Palackal, Joseph J. 1999. Problems and Issues in the Study of the Syriac Chant Traditions in South India. [The St. Thomas Christians in India continue to preserve the Chaldean and Antiochene liturgies and chants in Syriac (Aramaic) that originated in the Middle East. The richness and the diversity in these chant traditions demand more scholarly attention than what they received in the past. A history of Indian music may be incomplete without the history of Syriac chants.] Christian Orient, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 176-81.
Palackal, Joseph J. 1999. Sangeethawum sabhaacharitrawum gaweshana weekshanathil [Music and Church History: Research Perspectives] [Musical memories handed down from generation to generation through oral transmission among Christians in Kerala preserve the stories of cultural and religious interactions between South India, the Middle East, and Europe.] Sathyadeepam, vol. 73 (August 18, 1999), pp. 5, 11. Language: Malayalam.
Palackal, Joseph J. 1995. Puthen paana: A Musical Study. An analysis of the intercultural processes that influenced the singing styles of Puthen paana, an eighteenth-century Malayalam poem by John Earnest Hanxleden, in the historical context of Christianization and religious colonization in South India. Master's thesis. Hunter College-CUNY. Director: Barbara L. Hampton. (ProQuest ID: 740455261). Abstract.
Palackal, Joseph J. and Ephraim, Indumathi. 1985. Kristu Sahasra Naamam [Thousand Names of Christ] [Selections from the Sanskrit poem of the same title by I. C. Chacko, Illiparambil, composed in semi-classical style.] Pre-recorded cassette. FDMIC 210. Deccan Records, Bangalore. Text: I. C. Chacko, Illiparambil. Music: Anto Amarnad, CMI. Lead singers: Joseph Palackal and Indumathi Ephraim. Accompanying booklet with transliteration and English translation of the text by Francis Vineeth, CMI.
Palackal, Joseph J. 1980. Aaraadhanakramatthil sangeethatthinulla sthaanam [The Role of Music in Liturgy] [The ancient Syriac (Aramaic) chant tradition is one of the identity markers of the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala, India. Preservation of these chants should go hand in hand with adaptation of Indian classical and semi-classical styles of music in liturgy.] St. Mary's Forane Church Souvenir, Pallipuram, India, pp. 71-77. Language: Malayalam.
Palackal, Joseph J. 1979. Christian Bhajans. Long Play (LP) Record. LDEC 102. Deccan Records, Bangalore. 12 bhajans in Malayalam. Principal vocalist: Joseph Palackal. Chorus singers: Sunny Mampilly, Molly Madathiparambil, Jacintha Jose. Liner notes: Thomas Aykara, CMI. Cover design: Joy Elamkunnapuzha, CMI. Recorded at HMV Studios, Gemini, Madras, April 12-13, 1978.
Palackal, Joseph J. 1977. Kristeeya gaanangal [Christian Songs]. 45-RPM Extended Play (EP) Record. EDEC 1002. Deccan Records, Bangalore. 3 Christian devotional songs in Malayalam. Solo vocalist: Joseph Palackal. Lyrics: Cherian Kunianthodath CMI. Music: K. J. Joy. Liner notes: A. Mathias Mundadan, CMI. Recorded at HMV Studio, Gemini, Madras.
Palackal, Joseph J. 2006. Kerala: (Inde de Sud / South India). Le Chant des Pulluvan / Pulluvan Songs. Compact Disc. AMP LXXII, Archives internationales de musique populaire Musée d'ethnographie (Geneva) VDE CD-1147 (2004). Asian Music, vol. 37, no. 2 (Summer/Fall 2006), pp. 161-164.
Palackal, Joseph J. 1999. Shiva Mahadeva. Dagar Brothers. Dhrupad, Classical Vocal Music of North India. Two Compact Discs. Royal Tropical Institute (Amsterdam), PAN 4001/2 (1996). Yearbook for Traditional Music, vol. 31 (1999), pp. 202-203.
Palackal, Joseph J. 1998. Lotus Signatures: Dr. N. Ramani, Flute and Trichy Sankaran, Mrdangam. Annotations by David Nelson. Compact Disc. Music of the World (Chapel Hill, NC, USA), CD T-141 (1997). Yearbook for Traditional Music, vol. 30 (1998), pp. 207.
Songs for Liturgy and commerical releases
Lectures and workshops
Speech on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of Nadopasana, Thodupuzha, 12 August 2012.
Down the memory lane on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of Nadopasana, Thodupuzha, 12 August 2012.
Selected stage appearances
Performance of the Syriac chant Qambel maaran haan qurbānā at a concert organized by ComposersCollaborative, Inc., at Cornelia Street Cafe, in Manhattan, New York. 5 May 2013.
Performance of Syriac chants. Christliches indisches Fest (Christian Festival of India). Begegnungszentrum, Erlangen, Germany. 17 August 2009.
Performance of Christian devotional songs from India. The Consulate of India, New York, NY. 22 December 2008.
Selections from the Syriac Chant Repertory of the Syro-Malabar Church, India. Christian Festival of India. St. Stanislaus Kostka School Auditorium, Maspeth, NY. 9 August 2003.
Syriac Chants of the Syro-Malabar Church. North American Syriac Symposium IV "Syriac Christianity: Culture at the Crossroads." Princeton University. 9 July 2003.
Bhajan Sandhya. Bishop Molloy Center, Jamaica Plains, NY. 19 May 2003.
"Chant in India: Two Traditions." St. Stephen and Incarnation Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C. 9 May 1998.
Christian Bhajans. Bruno Walter Auditorium, Lincoln Center, NY. 29 May 1997.
Guest appearance in eight shows in the OffBroadway show, "NUNSENSE." Douglas Fairbanks Theater, NY. June 1990.
Christianity in India through art
Oral history project
Studies on Joseph J. Palackal
- Bonnie Bost: `Joseph J. Palackal: Preserver and Promoter of Christian Music in India', Submitted to Dr. Paul Neeley as a partial fulfilment for the requirements of the course `Anthropology of Music', Department of Ethnomusicology, Bethel University, Ellijay, Georgia, 27 April 2008.
Scholarships / Awards / Honorary mention
Interviews / Speeches / Press reports
Deepika 12 Aug 2012
Holly Tsang: 'East meets West', Queens Ledger, 17 November 2009. PDF
V. Kaladharan: `Demystifying a Musical Tradition', The Hindu, 3 November 2006. PDF
- Interview on Vatican Radio by Fr. William Nellickal Part 1 and Part 2, 19 March 2010.
Speech on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of Nadopasana, Thodupuzha, 12 August 2012.
Speech on the occasion of the first Christmas celebrations at the Indian Consulate, New York, 22 December 2008.
Speech on the occasion of the release of the film `Kerala, the Cradle of Christianity in South Asia' at Kerala House, New Delhi, 2 August 2008, organised by the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala.
Speech on the occasion of the 37th Annual National Catholic Development Conference, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, 4 October 2005.
Family and childhood
Earliest available photo of Joseph J. Palackal (right) with his childhood friends Tomy Joseph Pathiyamoolayil (left) and P. J. Thomas Pathiyamoolayil (center). Circa 1967.
"Being different is the way to be"
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