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2023/11/25
Proclaiming Indigenous Cultures and Singing the Hymnal in Mother Tongues

Taiwan Church News

3742 Edition

Nov 13 ~19, 2023

Weekly Topical

Proclaiming Indigenous Cultures and Singing the Hymnal in Mother Tongues

Reported by Dalul from Tainan

The Tainan Siraya Cultural Association and the PCT Siraya District Assembly jointly held a music seminar, “Takalulugan: Siraya Breathes Hymn Anew”, at Chuo-Chen Church in the afternoon on November 12. Outstanding Siraya music band, such as the Onini Bamboo Music, and many choirs from local churches, like To-Hse, Chou-chen, Mu-Cha, Jia-Hsien, and Yu-Ching came to attend the feast of hymnal music.

Rev Lo I-to, who specializes in church liturgy and music, was specially invited to share his thoughts on the topic of “Historical Roots and New Outlooks of the Plain Indigenous Hymns in Taiwan”. He pointed out that the source of Christian hymns was rooted in the psalms of the Jewish people. Through the psalms, he reminded the audience, the Jewish people expressed their praises, thanksgivings, confessions to the Lord who created heaven and earth, lamentations in sufferings, and debates with God, and etc. In the same vein, the history of the PCT Hymnal with its inheritance and evolution were closely related to the plain Indigenous peoples, because they were the first ethnic group in Taiwan to contact the Christian musical cultures and arts from the European countries.

Rev Lo indicated when Rev Lo Hsien-chun served in the PCT Eastern Presbytery, the plain indigenous song of “Ta Lao Niang”, collected from Fong-Lin village, was translated into a Taiwanese poem, and sung in the tune of plain indigenous peoples or the Amis. It was because of Rev Lo Hsien-chun’s efforts and records, we could hear and sing the tunes preserved and evolved vibrantly by the plain indigenous peoples, he said.

For example, hymn No. 483 of the PCT Hymnal (2009), “In Christ there is no East or West”, is actually derived from Rev Lo’s archives: “The Savior’s Christmas”. Another example is hymn No. 123 of the PCT Hymnal, “Supreme God, so full of love”, which is also an important plain indigenous melody collected and passed down to us through decades. Also hymn No. 199 of the PCT Hymnal (1964) was collected by Rev Lo Hsien-chun in 1928.

Rev Lo remarked that, in addition to the hymns that have been safely preserved and passed down, the PCT Hymnal (2009) also added four new hymns collected from the Siraya indigenous people, namely No. 7, No. 320, No. 503, and No. 531. However, there are still many plain indigenous or Amis hymns bequeathed to us with lyrics only, and yet without melodies, he lamented.

This problem should lead modern hymnal composers to find a better solution, he wished. In other words, he indicated, there are 16 written hymns of plain indigenous tune left to us over the past century, but only six of them are edited into the PCT Hymnal. The other ten hymns were still put on the shelf as historical archives, and it was a pity to give them up, said Rev Lo. To enrich the church music legacy for the plain indigenous peoples, he sincerely hoped these ten Siraya hymns could be translated into the Siraya language in the future.

Rev Lo stressed that if the Bible and hymns could be translated into the mother tongues, the spirit of ethnic identity, language, and cultural traditions would not disappear. The proclamation of the gospel begins with the translation of the Bible and hymns into different mother tongues. He said he was very happy to learn someone wants to translate the whole PCT Hymnal into the Siraya language. He also believed that there must be many linguistic terms and artistic conceptions that are difficult to translate.

In the meantime, such PCT Hymnal translation project is too complex to finish within a visible future, so he suggested it is not necessary to translate all 650 hymns of the PCT Hymnal. After all, some hymns may not be suitable for the Christians in modern lives, he reminded. He hoped that the church can compose new hymns based on the cultural contexts of indigenous peoples, especially Siraya people, and write new hymns about faith, hope, love, justice, and peace, which are the true gifts for modern Christians life.

Prof Lin Shu-na, director of the PCT Liturgy and Music Committee, said in her speech that she was overwhelmed to learn the wonder of Siraya language and its beautiful combination with the hymns. She remarked that in recent years many indigenous local churches, presbyteries and ethnic district committees want to translate the PCT Hymnal into their own mother tongues. Although these translation projects are always huge and difficult, the ambitious visions to preserve the indigenous languages and the tribal cultures is always respectable, she said. In the committee’s ministry plan for next year, she expressed the promotion of the Siraya ethnic culture is a very important ministry beyond doubt, and she looked forward to new Siraya hymns and music works in the future.

Teacher Edgar Macapili, a translator of Siraya hymns, shared that he encountered many challenges during the translation process, including the issues of language barriers, word selection, how to get close to the meaning of the hymns, how to make it easy to sing and etc. Ms Uma Talavan, Siraya cultural worker, said that thanks to the efforts and sharing of everyone, the hymns in Siraya translation can be delivered. A total of 21 Siraya hymns have been translated so far, including hymns for important church festivals, such as the Christmas, the Eucharist, Easter, and for the use in liturgical worship, she said.

Translated by Peter Wolfe


Submitted by:Taiwan Church Press
 
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