* All translated English titles in the article are my own translations.
I’m always bad at naming a single favorite for anything. Were I asked to name my favorite Taiwanese song, though, I would most certainly answer “月夜愁” (Sorrow of Moon-Lit Night, with Taiwanese and not Mandarin lyrics).
Old Taiwanese classic songs always have the kind of uniquely introvert and delicate lyrics that speak so much with their gentle temperament, so gentle and even euphemistic that, for instance, the falling of flower petals may in fact serves as an implicit metaphor of a woman’s unfortunate fate of a woman or, no less heartrendingly, a weeping Taiwan unable to defend itself from a tyrannic regime. Luckily, while “Sorrow of Moon-Lit Night” narrates an account of unfulfilled romantic yearning, its tune steers mildly yet distinctly (I think) away from a genuine sorrow.
I love singing this song — while the melody is a masterpiece in itself, it also employees (while most people won’t notice) a rather vocal wide range, which sits comfortably in my voice. Some may know that my Taiwanese is not even as fluent as my English, but for those who enjoy my chanting or chirping, this is one of the tunes that can mostly readily flow out from between my vocal chords and has been one of my “calling cards.”
Below is a performance by a beloved Taiwanese singer Fong Fei Fei (鳳飛飛, 1952 – 2012), who sadly just left us this year shortly after Lunar New Year.
And below is a medley that incorporates the song; this is the live performance from the concert celebrating the 35th anniversary of her singing career.
For yet another rendition of hers, try here. Unlike most Taiwanese singers, who tend to rush the song, she almost invariably adopts a slower tempo, which is what I also opt for to really make the song tell.
How is this blog entry related to my RTW trip? (A-hem.) Let’s make it Polish: Back in December 2011 I was invited to a jazz concert of a Polish quartet with a Polish singer. I think some parts were good, other parts less so, but their encore piece was an interesting and actually very brave choice:
Note that the song is very wordy with all the very complicated consonants, and the Polish lady got roughly (or crooned through) 60% of them 😛 Still, we all applauded her — it was a really endearing gesture to offer such an arrangement as an encore.
For delving into more historical background, Wikipedia has a fine page devoted to its composer 鄧雨賢 Teng Yu-hsien, who composed many songs that have since then become classics of classics, such as “望春風” (Longing for Spring Breeze, 1933), “月夜愁” (Sorrow of Moon-Lit Night, 1933), “雨夜花” (Flowers at Rainy Night, 1934), and “四季紅” (Song of Four Seasons, 1938). Other hits include “一個紅蛋” (A Red Egg, 1932) and “想要彈同調” (I Want to Play the Same Tune, 1934). Several of his compositions were so popular that Japanese translations were made.
Here is a recording made in 1933, obviously a precious historical document by now. The picture slides are also of historical interests. In 1933 Mr Teng was invited to join a record company “Columbia,” which was founded by a Japanese to import records issued by the American company Columbia Records, so I suppose this is why such a recording (among several others) was made.
*Picture source = here.