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26Jan/080

Nhu Quynh – Tieng Hat Chim Da Da

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This song is a well-known song among Vietnamese, and because it is rooted in Vietnamese culture, it will be hard to understand by non-Vietnamese. That's why I included translation notes like always so that people will understand the song and its symbolism and metaphors, so that they can enjoy the song just as I do.

Composer: Vo Dong Dien
English Title: The Sound of the Chinese Francolin (1)
Translated by: Gigi

Back in the day, you were fifteen years old
You would often hear me playing the guitar
The sound of the guitar stirred up many emotions
As time passed by quickly
You no longer come to hear me plucking the copper strings
And only peeked at me beside the river
Why were you not like before, coming over to hear me play?
Causing the guitar's melody to saddened greatly
You are like the gentle clouds, drifting aimlessly across the sky
And the clouds have separated from me

There's a Chinese Francolin seated on a banyan tree branch
Why must you marry a husband who's so far away? (2)
There's a Chinese Francolin singing a harmonious song
Why must you marry at such a young age?
Causing the Chinese Francolin to reluctantly fly away

By chance, I met you again
We happened to ride on the same ferry boat
An evening ferry boat that guided its guests across the river
By chance, we recognized each other
Stirring up emotions from the old days
Causing the ferry boat to shake as the waves clap
The day the bride crossed the river on a ferry boat adorned in flowers (3)
A small tear fell beside the river
The day the bride crossed over to her husband's house,
Someone sang such a sorrowful lullaby

There's a Chinese Francolin seated on a banyan tree branch (4)
Why must you marry a husband who's so far away?
There's a Chinese Francolin singing a harmonious song
Why must you marry at such a young age?
Causing the Chinese Francolin to reluctantly fly away.

Translator's Notes
(1) The Chinese Francolin (chim da da) is a bird species and in this song it is used to symbolize the man who is in love with the girl. He is asking his ex-lover to not blame him for letting her go marry someone else even if they both love each other..

(2) The literal meaning here is "Why don't you marry a husband who's near you; why must you marry one who's so far away?" And well, even though the Vietnamese phrase is rather short, it becomes wordy in English so I shortened it. The simple meaning is that he doesn't want her to leave him, and if she has to marry someone who isn't him, she should at least marry someone who's near her (ie. in the same village as her) since at least he could still see her everyday. But in this case, she ends up marrying someone far away.

(3) The phrase "sang song" in Vietnamese, which translates to "crossing the river" in English, is a metaphor for "getting married." It is rooted in Vietnamese culture back in the day where most people lived in the countryside, and often villages or neighborhoods would be separated by a river. And so when a girl gets married, she needs to "cross the river" to the other side where her husband's house would be. And usually once the girl "crosses the river," it's hard for her to come back especially if her husband's house is so far away. Since it happens often, the phrase "crossing the river" becomes the metaphor to "getting married."

(4) In the countryside, there are two things Vietnamese people consider to be symbolic of their village: dinh (village hall) and cay da (banyan tree). So the banyan tree is often used as a representation of Vietnamese villages in Vietnamese songs. It's said that tree carries a special meaning, that it is a symbol of longevity and perseverance, because of its near infinite roots.

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