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Memories of Yesteryears: Kristhava Keethankal

By Saba-Thambi

I cherish my childhood memories of listening to the “kristhava keethangal” (Christian songs) segment, broadcast on Sunday mornings in the nineteen sixties and seventies.

The melodious lyrics reached Jaffna via the medium radio waves of “Thamil Sevai 1” of Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation, later known as SLBC. During this phase the average “Jaffna-ite” was relying on the radio waves for classical music, cinema songs and news.

This was the era when few people owned gramophones & vinyl record players and Jaffna was slowly adapting to the new “toy” of tape recorders & cassettes.

The “kristhava keethangal” used to be aired in the mornings each Sunday and it was a routine in our household to listen to the melodies while we get ready to go to church for the Sunday school. This section carried the songs of Jikki, Natraja mudaliyar, L.R Eswari, Saraal Navaroji and many others.

Since then, many Christian songs and lyrics have been produced by the various artistes but even now these old favourites are held closer to our hearts. I do trust that most of the listeners of the “Thamil Sevai” who are above the age of fifty will have the similar predilection irrespective of their religion.

1.~ Amenalleluyaa ~

2.~ Anpae pirathaanam ~

3.~ Kelungal Tharapadum ~

4.~ Sarvalokapithu ~

5.~ Seer Yesu ~

6.~ Thanthanai Thuthipom ~

7.~ Thasarai ~

8.~ Thuthi ~

9.~ Venthai Kristhu Yesu Raja ~

10.~ Yellam Yesuvai ~

11.~ Yesuvin Alaiya Maniyosai ~

Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, NY, NY ~ during Lenten – pic by: K. Thirukumaran

Anpae pirathaanam….

The popular lyric “anpae pirathaanam” sung by Jikki and penned by S.P Gnanamani (era not known) has been adopted by the many Tamil churches across the Palk Strait. The lyricist has based his conception on one of the letters of Apostle Paul. Apostle Paul has written many letters in the first century (AD 55 – 57) during his missionary journeys around the Mediterranean sea. Most of his letters have become part of the New Testament.

“Anpae pirathaanam” is based on the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13. This chapter gives a magnificent description of the greatest gift of mankind – LOVE. This passage is still very popular in the twenty first century and read in many Christian celebrations including weddings. It is no surprise when Jikki sang this lyric in Aathithalam, it became very popular number for its meaning and for her melodious rendition.

The late Jikki who hailed from South India was the wife of the popular cinema playback singer and music director A.M. Rajah. Jikki has rendered her voice to many popular Christian lyrics such as: “ellam yesuvae”, “saruvalogathipa, thanthanai thuthipomae and “seer yesu naathanukku” and many more.

Kelungal tharapadum…

The other pre-Seventies popular songs were of V. Nadarajah mudaliyar – particularly “kelungal tharpadum”. It is a favourite number among the catholic churches and most frequently played over the loud speaker at festival gatherings.

This song cherished by many for the vocal and the beat of the “local melam” chronologically covering the story of Jesus Christ. It has also become a “You tube” favourite with different vocalists and with various depictions.

What more one can hark back to the memories of the “Golden oldies” during the Lenten season?

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