Padamonnai: Songs of Life
By: Santhosh George Joseph
Songs are an integral part of any culture. The diversity and richness of songs indicate a great deal about any dynamic culture. Songs express the worldview and spirituality of any culture more than any other art form. For example, Bhajans from the Bhakthi movement in India, Baul songs from the Soofi sect, Hymns from the Protestant movement are good examples of songs that represent the world view and spirituality.
We also have numerous examples to show that songs have liberative potentials. ‘We shall overcome’, ‘ O freedom’ are songs which fostered the civil rights movement in the United States of America. ‘Ruke na Jo’, ‘Isliya aaj sangharsh ki’ are Hindi songs which stimulated the factory worker’s movement in India.
Liberative songs are songs that are associated with a movement for social transformation. Liberative songs are mostly secular. But there are Liberative songs that are based on faith and theology which emphasize the mission to establish peace and justice. ‘Let my people go’ is an Afro American liberative song which is rooted in Biblical faith and theology bringing out the parallel between the liberative movement of Israelites against Pharaoh and the Civil Rights Movement in USA to free Afro- Americans from slavery.
2. Liberative songs of the Afro-American People
According to Afro-American musician Measha Brueggergosman, the spirituals emerged from the African people who were stolen from their land and sold into slavery in the United States of America since 1619. The spirituals were born out of a time, when Afro-American people were oppressed and needed to find a way not only to communicate with each other, but also to express themselves. They created a powerful snapshot of their lives that still resonates with people today.
According to Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, both escaped slaves and leaders of the movement, it was widely known to slaves that north of the American border was a refuge from slavery. Spirituals had a dual meaning for slaves as both a guide to the Underground Railroad and to life. For instance, in the spiritual “I’m on My Way to Canaan Land,” the word “Canaan” not only meant Heaven, it also meant north and specifically it referred to the British colonies that became Canada. Most spirituals refer to death or crossing over into an afterlife where slavery doesn’t exist; the secret meaning behind this told slaves, “If you use the Underground Railroad, you don’t have to die to remove yourself from slavery.” That is true for “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” The secret code in this song is the word “low,” which referred to the Deep South. In other words, the song was saying, “Lift me out of the South and out of slavery and carry me to freedom in the North.”
“Go Down Moses” was a forbidden song for the slaves, as their masters knew it was a song about escaping slavery. The slaves connected with the Biblical story of Moses leading his people to freedom. The song enlivened and inspired enslaved people and made it harder for their masters to control them. Harriet Tubman, who became known as the Moses of her people, would often defy her masters and sing that song at the top of her lungs.
The spiritual “Wade in the Water” is filled with specific instructions for escaping slaves. For an example right from the title, the song was providing a tip, telling escaping slaves that if they could wade in water, the hound dogs that slave masters sent out to find them wouldn’t be able to pick up their scent. The spiritual “Deep River” has a similar theme. In it, the Jordan River is code for the Ohio River; if you could get across the Ohio River you could live in freedom.
Thus the slaves created this magnificent music in the midst of their own despair while in bondage. Their music was their voice. It was a vision of hope and courage beyond measurement that accelerated their movement towards freedom and dignity.
3. Liberative songs from Kerala context
Liberation songs as a secular genre is very vibrant in Kerala. In association with the communist movement several songs came into being in the 1950s. These songs gave impetus to worker’s movement to fight against the exploitation of landlords. The songs penned by ONV Kurup such as ‘Ponnarval ambiliyil kanneriyunnore’ and by Vayalar Rama Varama such as ‘Balikudeerangale’ have influenced the psyche of Kerala people to build the left movement which contributed to the betterment of Kerala.
In the sixties and seventies Dynamic Action, Thiruvalla had taken a lead to create Liberation songs to challenge the discriminations that was prevalent in Church and society. They brought out a book titled Janakeeya Ganangal in 1983, a collection of liberations songs that they created in the nineties. There were faith-based liberation songs and secular liberation songs in the collection. The faith-based liberation songs took a bold step to reread the scriptures from the perspectives of the poor and marginalized and affirmed justice and freedom for the vulnerable. Towards eighties and nineties their songs focused on caste discrimination and upholding Dalit spirituality to counter it.
Another set of Liberative songs which are based on Christian faith and theology and rooted in the involvement in people’s struggles in the context of Kerala emerged in the late eighties and nineties. At that period, the members of Student Christian movement of India Kerala got involved in the social movements that sprung up from the institutional churches namely, Janakeeya Vimochana Viswasa Prasathanam formed inside CSI Church, Naveekarana Vedi formed in the Marthoma Church and Kerala Swathanthra Malsya Thozhilali Federation formed by the Catholic nuns and priests. This exposure inspired them to compose songs that call people to become part of struggles for justice and peace. They brought about a collection of songs titled ‘Paadamonnai’ in 1993, inspired from the Biblical faith to proclaim liberation to the people and solidarity to the struggles for transformation. These songs are different from Janakeeya Ganangal as they are rooted in Christian faith and came into being as a faith response to certain social realities.
Each song in the Padamonnai collection has emerged from a specific context. They tried to address certain experiences of marginalization, injustice, exploitation, and also experiences of protest, resilience, struggles and celebrations. Though certain individuals penned them, the inspiration came from the movements and communities in which they were part of. There is a greater role of communities and fellowships like SCM, CSI Youth Movement, Janakeeya Vimochana Visvasa Prasthanam and AWAZ (Raipur) in shaping these songs.
4. Theological basis of Padamonnai songs
The Padamonnai songs are different from the traditional Christian devotional songs in many respects. These songs uphold a faith which closely addresses the realities of life, rather than escaping or evading them. In fact, it provides the courage to face life and its challenges. Some of the recurring themes of these songs are as follows.
This song penned by Santhosh George Joseph upholds a collectivity which challenges the individualism in all its forms. The song affirms that only in collectivity we can achieve the fullness of life just as a river which starts its journey as a spring and forms into streams and then rivers to consummate in the ocean which symbolizes the fullness of life. The river loses itself and begins to degenerate if it stops flowing. When it flows, the movement of the waters becomes the life-giving source to all the living beings around.
Nammude mohana sangeethadharakal
This song penned by Babu Kodamvelil is raising the question for whom we are singing our songs. For whom are we playing the musical extravaganza? He calls people to sing for those who are bleeding in their hearts and for those who are groaning with deep pain and anguish. He calls these songs as songs that sow a change or difference and ask people to join in singing together.
Shakthi nalkoopriya nayaka
This song penned by Santhosh George Joseph is expressing the desire to follow Jesus. The song expresses a realization that the way of the cross is risky and dangerous and hence need the grace to transcend the weaknesses of human conditions to follow the blood-stained path of Calvary.
Unarnu paadidam anudinavum
This song is written by Alexander Varghese is about the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross which is a celebration of new streams of life. It is this stream that removes all barriers between peoples and becomes a soothing balm that can cure the wounds of the ailing mother earth.
This song penned by S. K. Abraham is a dedication song with which one submits one’s whole life even to die for remaining closer to the will of God. This song brings forth the concept of a Christian witness which finds itself in the margins of society to be with those who are denied of human dignity and necessities of life.
Viroopasilpamam Manava Jeevitham
This song is written by Eapen Mathew brings out the symbolism of submitting one’s life to God who as a sculptor is capable of sculpting coarse rawness of human life into a beautiful artifact. Even though the human life is an incomplete artwork with its myriad colours and shades of happiness and sorrows, God in Christ through the sacrificial colours of the cross could intervene and bestow meaning, purpose, and beauty to human lives.
This song penned by Babu Kodamvelil depicts the vision of the new heaven and new earth which is the consummation of the journey of the people who accept and celebrate one another. It calls for the diligence to safeguard the flame of consciousness and dreams for a future imbued with equity, fairness, and joyousness that most humans continue to hold dear deep within them.
Ninhithamchaithidan vaimanasyam kattum
This song written by Santhosh George Joseph asks God to take away the eyes and hands that are reluctant to see the visions and to do the will of God. It affirms that the fulfillment in life is achieved by being used as a bow in the hand of God even if it gets broken by being used as such.
This song is written by Koshy Thalakkal. It is examining the kingship of Jesus which is completely opposite to that of a typical earthly king. It is a king without crown or robes, the king who chose the manger instead of a palace, and a king who grew up in the carpenter’s workshop. And, this is a king who gave his life for all human beings.
This song written by Santhosh George Joseph depicts Jesus walking on the road, along with the people who are deprived and wounded, and thus creating a new movement that affirms dignity and equality of all created in the image of God.
Padamonnai song book was first published in 1993 and reprinted again 1997. It has 100 songs with a very different content and music when compared to the traditional Christian devotional songs. These songs are seeking a new faith and spirituality that can bring transformation in individual and social life. The theological basis of these songs is the historical Jesus who is active in history, who was and continues to be involved in the struggles for fuller life. The essence of these songs is the yearning for a new community that becomes the foretaste and continued blossoming of the reign of God in this world. It is not at all a craving of an individual to secure a place in heaven, but a collective surrender and submission to be part of God’s work of reconciling the world and establishing justice with peace. Many of these songs also uphold the universal dimensions of the gospel and the broader understanding about the world, human beings, and religious plurality.
These songs are not written as part of a well-organized effort but were born out of small gatherings and workshops that grappled with the faith questions of the contemporary world. One of the aspects that shaped these songs is the involvement of the composers in the villages across India in their search for the meaning of Christian witness in the contemporary Indian situation.
These songs have accomplished a greater role in motivating individuals and faith movements that seek their involvement in Christian witness. These songs have played its part as a catalyst for all those who have gone through the fellowship of Student Christian movement of India (Kerala) in the late 1980s and 90s to shape their faith and involvements. These songs also inspired many people to understand Christian faith differently and rethink their worldview and to explore alternative vocations in life.
5. Relevance of Padamonnai songs today
These songs assume significance since the popular Christian songs today are upholding other-worldly spirituality that does not address the issues and challenges of the present-day realities. This trend is detrimental to the witness of the Church. As the Kerala and Indian society are becoming ever more gender-exclusivist and casteist, the conventional Christian song writers and musicians turn away from the ethical issues that shape the world around them and indulge in a theology that seeks material blessings and prosperity, and this trend would render obsolete any quest for a relevant Christian witness. Thus, we believe that it is really important to reintroduce these liberative songs and popularise them through all means available. It is our hope and prayer that the wide dissemination of these songs will usher in a renewed quest for relevant Christian spirituality and witness, and that it would also pave way for new songs to be penned and appreciated by a wide section of those who seek to follow Christ today.
6. Online Liberative Song Portal
In 2000 onwards the internet became popular and now online music sharing platforms became prevalent. So there is a new scope to popularise songs through online platforms. So, it is high time to use new communication technologies to promote songs that can change people and communities towards a better world.
Online Liberative Song Portal will be a repository which consists of the lyrics of the song, the music in staff notation form, the audio / video recording of the song, a biographical note regarding the lyricist and composer of the song as well as a write up regarding the theological and social content of the song. The public can listen to the songs, lyrics, staff notation, write ups from the online portal.
The Liberative songs in the broader sense will consists of a diversity of songs both secular and faith-based songs and songs addressing the current issues such as gender equality, environmental protection, religious harmony etc. Therefore, after the present project thrust must be given to create new songs thematically relevant to the present context and disseminate them through the portal.
7.Padamonnai Online Event
We organised a large online event bringing together 1000 people, a cross section of the society, on the 17th of April 2021 at 7.00 pm, where Padamonnai songs were presented along with the song performances by choirs and music groups from Kerala and across India. Medha Patkar, Dr. Theodosius Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Ouseppachan (Music Director), Rev Sajan P Mathew (Music Director) and KJ Baby (writer and founder of Kanavu School Wayanad) graced the occasion.
- Padamonnai song book published by Christhava Sahithya Samithi, Thiruvalla in 1993 and reprinted in 1997
- Janakeeya Ganagal song book published by Dynamic Action Thiruvalla in April 2017 (fourth edition)
- Shalom Shalom, Christmas song booklet published by JMM Study Centre, Thiruvananthapuram in 2003
- African-American Spirituals: Music of the Slaves by Calvin Earl
- Padamonnai website paadamonnayi.com
- Padamonnai Online event Facebook live dated 17th April 2021
- Asianet Interview on Padamaonnai Songs by Aby Tharakan dated 13th April 2021
സമര കേരളത്തിന്റെ സ്വന്തം പാട്ടുകൾ, ആരുമറിയാത്ത കഥകൾ
List of Padamonnai songs
- Nin hitham chaithidan Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Ee manalkadukal Lyrics Babu Kodamvelil & Music Santhosh George
- Unarnnu Paadidaam anudinanvum Lyrics & Music Rev Alexander Varghese
- Anakha Snehopaharamai Lyrics SK Abraham & Music Santhosh George
- Paadunnu Nammal innarkku vendi Lyrics Babu Kodamvelil & Music Santhosh George
- Sweekarikkoo Sweekarikkoo Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Agniyavuka nammal Lyrics Vinod Koshy & Music Santhosh George
- Devalayam en jeevalayam Lyrics and Music Eapen Mathew
- Anugamippananabhilasham Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Sathya Swaroopa Pranamam Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Nee Mounam Bhajichal Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Aruluka varam adiyaaril Lyrics Santhosh George & Music George Zacharia
- Manassundenikku nee shudhamaaka Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Rev Alexander Varghese
- Paadamonnai Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Sooryanai Thejoroopamai Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Nadha Neeyente manasathe Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Sathya sundaramaya vachanam Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Jose
- Varshakanangal Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Ashanthiyude theeram Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Avan namme nayicheedumbol Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Aa bhavaganga ozhukidatte Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Anupama sundara vela Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Rajakumara Devakumara Lyrics Prof Koshy Thalakkal & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Srishti sthithilaya thalamevide Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Ente janathin Kashtatha Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Uyare Mukilin Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Jayapalan
- Ee manohara rathriyil Lyrics Eapen Mathew & Music Elizabeth Mathew
- Thamasoma Lyrics Baby Thayyil & Music PC Mooppayikkadu
- Vazhiorukkanorungum Lyrics & Music KJ Baby
- Swapnam vidarum bhoomiyil Lyrics and Music Rev Sajan P Mathew
- Eeyilam kunnukal Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Swapnangalokkeyum Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Naadha Neeyevide Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Kalithozhuthil pulthotti thannil Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Oshana Oshana Lyrics & Music KJ Baby
- Ee raavum ee vennilavum Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Aanandam karakaviyukayai Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Swami Yesudasan
- Mannavendra paadidunnithu Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Swargasangalpangal Lyrics Prof VC John & Music Jeyapalan
- Kshamikkoo shishuve Lyrics Rev G Shobhanam & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Nin pathe chuvadukal Lyrics Yacob Thomas Music & Santhosh George
- Jeevan Pakarneeduvan Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Shalom Shalom Lyrics Yacob Thomas & Music Eapen Mathew
- Door Dooreya Maamalakappuram Lyrics & Music Rev Alexander Varghese
- Vinninte nayakane Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Sooyanudichu Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Abhayam abhayam thedi nadannu Lyrics & Music Rev Alexander Varghese
- Kripa Labhichavale Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Irul poothu nilkumee ravinte Lyrics Balachandran & Music Santhosh George
- Akasa neelimayum Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Eapen Mathew
- Manushya puthranavan Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Thavahithachari Lyrics S K Abraham & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Aakasame Kelkuka Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Parama pithave Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Kaniverum snehapithave Lyrics & Music Rev Sajan P Mathew
- Vida cholli neengumee Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Kodiya kattai Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Manukula duritha nivarakanai Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Udhanam chaitheedam Lyrics & Music K J Baby
- Poomazhayai Lyrics Reji Mohan & Music Santhosh George
- Poorva sandhya Nabhasingal Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Kanakkara keri Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Unnatha shilpiyam daivame Lyrics George Thomas & Music Elizabeth Mathew
- Jagamakhilam Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Yugavaasarathinte Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Daivam than nammodu koodeyundu Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Kristhu yesuvin Swathanthryam Lyrics & Music Rev V M Mathew
- Sathyathinte pathayil Lyrics & Music Rev Sajan P Mathew
- Jeevanayulloru Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Urangomale Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Rev MJ Joseph
- Jnanikale lajjitharakkiduvanai Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Nin pathe krooshin pathe Lyrics Babu kodamvelil & Music Shaji Nedumchery
- Suvisheshathin Mattolikal Lyrics & Music Rev V M Mathew
- Yesuve lokathil sakshicheedam Lyrics Santhosh George & Music
- Kaalam thikanju Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Aaravam muzhangi Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Neeyenne kaivittathenthe Lyrics Babu kodamvelil & Music Santhosh George
- Dhyana nirathanai Lyrics SK Abraham & Music Santhosh George
- Vineetharai vineetharai Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Urakku paattin izhakalulakkum Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Jeyapalan
- Mookayam raathri Lyrics and Music Eapen Mathew
- Manushayane snehicha deva Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Nin roopam thannennil Lyrics & Music Eapen Mathew
- Navadambathikale Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Thurannilla Nadha nin vaathilukal Lyrics Babu kodamvelil & Music Santhosh George (?)
- Ee raavin hridayathiloode Lyrics Babu kodamvelil & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Namo vakam Lyircs C Babu & Music Abraham Eapen, Santhosh George
- Smaranakal than manideepam Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Vithumbunnathenthe Lyrics & Music Babu kodamvelil
- Oru deepa naalam Lyrics Babu kodamvelil & Music Santhosh George
- Oru nullu naivedyam polum Lyrics Babu kodamvelil & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Pazhmulam thandukalanu nammal Lyrics Babu Kodamvelil & Music Santhosh George (?)
- Sruthilayathalamai Lyrics VD John & Music Santhosh George (?)
- Giri nirakal paadunnu Lyrics Babu kodamvelil & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Shadvala theerangal Lyrics Yacob Thomas & Music Santhosh George
- Shalom Shalom Lyrics Yacob Thomas & Music Eapen Mathew
- Nathantha yathrikar Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Aarao Aararo Lyrics & Music Eapen Mathew
- Pirakkathathenthe Lyrics Babu kodamvelil & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Ilam kattu veeshunne Lyrics Babu kodamvelil & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Anayunnu naadha Lyrics Jiji Alex Music Santhosh George
- Kripayal nirakkuka nadha Lyrics Jiji Alex Music Santhosh George
- Yesupaithalinte kochu swapnabhoomiyil Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Ndam pakarnallo Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Sundara neela nisheethiniyil Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Nadhan varunnoru neravum kathu Lyrics Rev George Abraham & Music Santhosh George
- Sneham Amma than sneham Lyrics & Music Eapen Mathew
- Yaathra anathamam Yathra Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Nithyavumange kazhalina paniyan Lyrics SK Abraham & Music Santhosh George
- Marubhoomiyum malayaoravum Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Manathoru velllivelicham Lyrics Babu kodamvelil & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Nigoodamai than Lyrics & Music Eapen Mathew
- Thavajanma sphalya Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Uyarunnu Daivika naadam Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Maanam Thuranningu Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Dr Abraham Joshua
- Vidavukal meethe Lyrics Yacob Thomas & Music Santhosh George
- Podiman paatha Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Abraham Eapen
- Vachanathin deepangalal Lyrics Yacob Thomas & Music Santhosh George
- Ee theruvorangal Lyrics Babu Kodamvelil & Music Santhosh George
- Vijanamaya Veedhi Lyrics Shaji Nedumcheri & Music Santhosh George
- Balamaruluka Lyrics and Music Eapen Mathew
- Daivamee Lokathe Lyrics Jacob John & Music Eapen Mathew
- Sundara neela nisheethini Lyrics & Music Santhosh George
- Bhoohridayathil Lyrics Santhosh George & Music Swami Yesudas
- Varnabhamam prapanchathin Lyrics & Music Santhosh George