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Sambah lesan

Johny P. David plays “Śambah leśān” with instrumental accompaniment.

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AP 56b - Śambah leśān
Call Number

AP 56B

Part Number Part I - Syro Malabar Church
Title Śambah leśān
Duration 5:56
Place of Recording Johny P. David's residence
Date of Recording 26 July 2016
Youtube URL
Video Segment (s)



Johny P. David presents the melody of Šambah lešān (Sing my Tongue) that we heard in solo performance in Part 56A, with the accompaniment of violin, guitars, and drums. Johny iterates the melody on Alto Saxophone, and Kiran C. P. and Stine Joseph reiterate it respectively on violin and keyboard. Thus, Johny allows us to experience the same melody in different tone colors. This is unconventional in many ways. Taking out of the divine context of religion and ritual efficacy, Johny brings the melody to the merely human realm of pure aesthetic enjoyment. The selection of musical instruments, too, is unconventional. Traditionally, Syro-Malabar church musicians used only violin, harmonium, triangle, and bass drum for accompaniment. Johny’s action is avant-garde. He is motivated enough to spend his time and resources to combine a tune associated with the Syriac translation of a famous Latin liturgical text with contemporary sonorities. This adds yet another layer to the multiple stories of centuries-long cultural interactions that took place in Kerala between the disparate traditions of the East and the West. By doing so, Johny presents the melody to future composers to make use of it, either by quotation, or by mutation, as Western composers did with some of the medieval chants ("Dies Ire," for example).

Viewers might argue that the serene sublimity and loving tenderness in Johny’s rendering is hampered by the selection of chords and the particular sonorities of the accompanying instruments. If Johny’s version is far superior with its delicate and subdued use of ornamentation of notes and careful control of dynamics, it is because the melody blended into his blood more than half a century ago. Johny dedicates the video to his favorite priest, Fr. Abilius, C.M.I. (1916-2000), who taught him many Syriac melodies.

Johny’s selection of the performance space, Mar Thoma National Shrine at Azhikkode, is deliberate. The story of this melody is linked to this Shrine and this place (see notes on Part-56A). History sleeps here; so does nostalgia. Christian Musicological Society of India is grateful to Johny P. David for bringing Syriac chants into a different kind of contemporary conversation....... Joseph J. Palackal

Related Videos

  • AP 5f - K. O. Chacko Koythadathil, sings "Śambah leśān" which is sung during the Eucharistic procession on Holy Thursday.
  • AP 6f - Dr. Jacob Vellian and team sing "Śambah leśān" From Pange Lingua by St.Thomas Aquinas.
  • AP 51a - "Śambah leśān" Syriac translation of Tantum Ergo by Thomas Aquinas.
  • AP 56a - Johny P. David plays “Śambah leśān” on alto saxophone.
  • AP 241(231) - Syriac East meets Latin West Part 1: Sambah Lesan & Kollan Dasne

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