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Nhu Quynh – Chuyen Hoa Tigon

Composer: Anh Bang
Poet: T.T.Kh
English Title: Story of the Tigon Flower
Translated By: Gigi

One autumn evening just before twilight arrived
Still innocent, I gathered all the fallen flowers
Basked in the moonlight, my hair dyed into its color
I waited for the figure of my lover to appear with all his love

He often ran his fingers across strands of my hair
Often sighed every time a smile reached my lips
He once said, "Those flowers are like a shattered heart.
I'm worried that would be the future of our relationship."

I remembered the words he once said to me
Ever since that autumn evening from long ago
Now that I finally understood the meaning of those words
Our relationship had been destroyed by my hands

If he knew that I had already married another
Would sadness reach his heart, shattering it, or not?
Would he think of those shattered flowers from long ago?
Flowers that resemble a broken heart dyed in crimson blood.

Translator's Notes: Anh Bang took 4 verses from a famous poem "Hai Sac Hoa Tigon" (Two Colors of Tigon Flower) by T.T.Kh and composed this song. The poem itself is actually 11 verses long with 4 lines per verse and is based on the poet's own tragic love story. To this day, the poet's identity was never revealed.


Khanh Ly- Hat Cho Nguoi Nam Xuong

Composer: Trinh Cong Son
English Title: A Serenade for the Dead
Translated By: Mikki

Here you lay to rest after you once passed by
You used to revel in this life
You used to fly high in the flush sky
Then you lay to rest, no friends, no one
No one, everyday; there's no one for eternity
To lullaby you to a deep sleep,
Rain seasons came through this cementery only to bring birds!

You lay to rest and let hatred fall into oblivion
Sent each other off on a sad day
The land embraced, escorted you to return to your origin
From that day, in the vast sky is missing you
Like the bird's wings forsook the forest,
Like the heart forsook love
In this place once,
Seeing your arrival, my sorrows were resigned to speak in vain!

Your friends are still here, do you know that?
Your lover is still here, do you miss her?
The garden is still green, the sun is still rising
When your shadow, like a bird's wings, descended.

Which region of sky you have already flown through?
What still remains here are these infinite mornings
A lover then became forgotten, friends became separated
Oh the months and years, many human footprints also faded to dust.

You lay to rest, like that voyage once
A child from the past has found his way back home
The deserted land sealed off with the promise to return
People in the city, in one day, already recalled your name
Some tomorrow mornings, in war
Many bloody corpses will appear
I plead for that person who just lay to rest
To see the reflection of heaven at the end of the boundless sky.


Quang Le – Suong Trang Mien Que Ngoai

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Composer: Dinh Mien Vu
English Title: White Dew in Motherland
Translated By: Gigi

At night, I paddle across muddy swamps, with mud clinging onto my body.
Drops of white dew fall onto my shoulders, softening them with the coldness.
Birds weep across the land, calling each other to fly towards where?
Speechless, a group of gibbons also call out to each other.

Every time I hold the gun close to my chest until my hands become numb,
With sunken eyes following the infinite illusions, I let out a long sigh.
In a faraway land, my mother carries the burden on her shoulders,
While you are illuminating, like a bright lantern shining within tomorrow's dew.

Mother, I wonder if you know that I'm sitting in my own grave right now? (1)
The wind promises, the rain vows, and once I return to motherland,
Just so my mother can send a message asking about my condition.
That one road in our old village during the old years, when I was still small
I followed my mother to school, and now, that old road is still there,
With strands of willow trees dancing in the wind to a sad lullaby.

I'm busy with military operations, so it might be hard to visit each other.
But we still have each other like we have our very first breath entering life.
Your hair still has the sweet scent of the sky-high grass.
Allow me to tell you my plans for our future.

My friends left following the layers of the years.
I heard that a few of my close friends sometimes never return.
Please let me have you continue praying for my life.
Rocks are soft, but our feet are hard, so my mother still has a future. (2)

Translator's Notes:
(1) What this means is that he feels like he's waiting to die in the battlefield, and that everywhere he sits is like his own grave. He doesn't know whether or not he can survive.
(2) What this means is that rocks are soft in the sense that if you hit them hard enough, they break. But with our feet, if we have a strong footing, we won't trip over as easily. And if we do fall or trip, we can still stand up. His mother still having a future implies that the country still has a future.


Quang Le – Xin Em Dung Khoc Vu Quy

Composer: Dinh Mien Vu
English Title: Please Don't Cry On Your Wedding Day
Translated By: Gigi

Don't look at me in that way,
With your eyes streaked with tears.
Although our love has not faded,
It cannot avoid the pain of separation.
Who could ever predict the future?
Who could ever imagine?
How could tears ever wipe away our love?

Memories filled with only bitterness now,
My heart is but an organ rubbed in salt
Yet why hasn't the salt dissolved in?
Everything is still here, but where are you?
We both live within two separate skies.
I hold resentment towards a love that won't disappear,
For the rest of my entire life.

A flower-adorned car guided you on your day.
To me, it's a funeral car bidding farewell to my soul,
Like a bleak and painful prison,
Like poison agitating in the middle of the night.
Like that refrain from a romantic love medley,
But all that's left is a sorrowful note.

Pain comes with every beat of my heart.
God is punishing us by causing our souls to never unite.
I'll wipe away the tears and try to crack a smile,
Just so you would feel at ease.
Let us wait till our next lifetime,
With a promise to love each other again.


Truong Vu & Nhu Quynh – Pho Dem

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Composer: Tam Anh
English Title: Night Lit City
Translated By: Gigi

Dim, blurry lights stretch across a night lit city
A color of white like stars hugging themselves to sleep
Many times I meditate within this night lit city
Whenever I recall those memories of my life
Of those days where the number of casualties grew

Black clouds cause the fragile moon to wane
That's why there are traces of warmth left
Situated in front of a thousand vague verses
Because one often dreams that life is like a poem

I miss those days where sun rays rest on trees
How I love those golden leaves that are now dissolving
Drifting clouds fly across skies without a care in the world
Causing the one I love to dream and hope
I set out to discover all the strokes of elegance

Although I'm a soldier away from home, I still appreciate life
With words from my song and the sound of my laughter
I still search for happiness within my dreams
Even if my words become dazed with longing, grief, and doubt

A night lit city in the middle of a strange land
It submerges in like the rows of frozen trees
A night lit city awaits the person exposed to the hardships of life
Someone who's fighting this war for a long time already
Someone who probably keeps his own feelings and wishes to himself

Please give me ten fingers like that of an angel's
Please give me ten fingers like that of an angel's
So that I can guide the person I love
So I can guide the person who doesn't love
And the person who hasn't loved yet.


Giao Linh- Chuyen Do Vi Tuyen

Composer: Lam Phuong
English Title: The Ferry Boat Ride at the Parallel
Translator: Gigi

The moon is so bright tonight, my dear
Why must we separate because of the river that's divided into two colors?
Floating along the waves of the infinitely vast water
I wait to meet your figure for many cold and lonely nights
Overcoming forests and mountains, I arrive at the entrance of your village
My ferry boat will accompany you across the parallel in the quiet night
In the South, we are currently living in peace
A sweet love spreads its ardent fragrance beside the golden rice fields
Oh, the mystifying river is very beautiful
My dear, who could have the heart to divide these shores...
Causing such longing for the days and months to come
You and I will build a bridge connecting both regions
So the Southern army can reach Thang Long in the near future
They will bring peace to warm a million hearts
The night's mist drop upon my eyes, wetting my eyelashes
My heart feels cold and lonely like those evenings at the border during winter
Who could cause such sorrowful songs?
As though they're recalling the memories of our separation within my broken heart
On the verge of tears, I look towards the distance that's a thousand miles away
Right now you are suffering in your homeland that's sinking deeply
Many nights I sob underneath the ivory-colored moon
My soul eagerly waits for the day of your return to warm both of our hearts.

Translator's Notes:
The parallel that the narrator mentions is the 17th parallel that separates the North from the South, just in case anyone didn't catch that. The river that the narrator mentions is the Ben Hai river that just happens to lie on the 17th parallel line, which means the river was basically divided, too. There was a bridge across the river known as the Hien Luong Bridge (also known as the "Peace Bridge"). At the time of the partitioning, the northern portion of the bridge was painted red and southern portion painted yellow, which is why the narrator mentions the river being divided into two colors. Then the bridge that the narrator later mentions that she and her lover would build is a metaphor for her hopes of both sides being united, with the South winning the war and bringing peace to Thang Long (another name for Ha Noi).


Hoang Oanh – Chieu Tay Do

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Composer: Lam Phuong
English Title: Evening in the Western Capital (1)
Translated By: Gigi

One night, I dreamed us quietly returning together
We visited our homeland and the garden of areca nuts
My hand guided yours as we walked on the dried grass
We walked through the quiet evening in the Western Capital

The beautiful river, the long dress flowing elegantly
But how come I didn’t see us visiting Ninh Kieu?
I think I felt life heavily laden with the color black
As black as an unaccustomed piece of clothing

We asked the grasses and trees, they wept and the wind howled
Ever since we lost our home, the wind carried people across oceans (2)
Mothers waiting for letters, silently craving for a piece of betel
Children wandering the streets for many days because of hunger
Wives waiting for news of their husbands, the days seemed so far away (3)
Those years of liberation were like that, weren’t they? (4)

Back then, we were familiar with each part of our school courtyard
Now, why does everything seem different from the names of the streets?
The ship that carried me away will carry me back home
The Western Capital will relive its lovely days again.

Translator's Notes
(1) Tay Do means Western Capital, and is the old name of the city of Can Tho. It is now old terminology that isn't used in everyday language.
(2) This part refers to the refugees that fled Vietnam by boat, also known as "boat people."
(3) The wives here are the wives of South Vietnamese officers who were sent to re-education camps after the Vietnam war. The day that their husbands could return was very far away indeed.
(4) This question is mocking the so-called "liberation" that the North Vietnamese army vowed they would achieve when they invaded the South. It is making an irony out of the word "liberation" because it is a word connected to "freedom" but "freedom" were not what the Vietnamese citizens experienced after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. It was the exact opposite.


Manh Dinh – Chuyen Gian Thien Ly

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Composer: Anh Bang
Poet/Lyricist: Yen Thao
English Title: Story of the Telosma Flower
Translated By: Gigi

I stand on this side of the river, on the other side are smoke and flames.
Here is my village, after many years of a devastating war,
Even sorrow inflicts upon each bamboo stem.
I have a loving wife, beautiful like the 16th moon, (1)
We married, but reluctantly have to be apart from one another.

I miss her soft lips, as beautiful as the color of sunlight.
Her rosy cheeks glistened with the scent of budding rice fields.
Who does not dread the idea of leaving one's home?
To leave the person one loves, who can easily feel the least bit happy?

She watched me with her eyes drowned in tears.
I walked away heavily but I can hear my soul weep.
Hey, soldier of war, my comrade in artillery,
My mother, with mist-colored hair, hears the sound of war each night.

Be careful of where you aim, or it might accidentally land on my home (2)
My house is located at the bottom of the hills,
That's where Telosma grows, and where the person I love lives.

Translator's Notes
(1)In the song, "trang muoi sau" (16th moon) means a round moon. The moon is a perfect circle on the 16th, which is the most beautiful shape. Therefore, the author emphasized how beautiful his wife is. Just like the moon when it is in its best shape. Other meaning of the 16th moon normally describes a girl in the teen. Typically when she is 16 years old. Or they can say "trang tron le mot" meaning round moon and one. That would describes a girl who is 17. Thank you Hoang Minh Dung his input.

(2) This part here uses what can be considered a "common language" between South Vietnamese soldiers, especially those in artillery. It uses the verb "rot" (to pour) but it actually means "to aim." And what might "accidentally land on my home?" That is the shot, shell, bullet, though it's not mentioned but it's assumed that the listener knows what 'it' is. This part is the part that gets 'lost in translation.' It sounds much nicer in Vietnamese, has a nice feeling to it, and it is something former S. Vietnamese soldiers can relate to. The English translation actually loses that feeling but I want to mention it so non-Vietnamese speakers can have a feel for it.


Truong Vu – Rung La Thap

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Composer: Tran Thien Thanh
English Title: Jungle of Low-Hanging Leaves
Translated By: Gigi

The jungle of green, green leaves, trees drape over its path.
What kind of dreams does the city behind me hold?
I am a soldier in the middle of a long-lasting war.
That's why I could hear my first dreams sinking deeply.

From the radio, the girl would sing:
"I will love you forever, the worn-out soldier who's away from home."
In the middle of the jungle, her voice would rise.
But I don't see anything in the middle of this jungle.

Why not sing for the soldiers battling enemies on the bridge?
With muddy boots, still wearing their green uniforms.
Amidst gunsmoke at the camp, and tired eyes from lack of sleep.
After a night of combat, all we need is a word of appreciation.

Why not sing for those who are still busy fighting?
All we see are trees hiding the road back to the bustling city.
Why not sing for the mothers who miss their sons every night?
Why not sing for those who recently fell last night?

A worn path snakes its way through the dense, green jungle.
A soldier is accustomed to the hardships of each army mission.
I've heard the nonstop sound of gunshots since the day I was born.
So now I'm fighting a long war to bring peace to my country.

Please let your words touch people's hearts forever.
Do not sing like the birds atop the dense jungle.
Please be sincere about what you are singing.
Just like how a soldier loves the jungle's low-hanging leaves.

Translator's Notes
This song basically talks about the thoughts of a soldier during a war, in this case, the Vietnam War. This is one of the many, many songs about the Vietnam War. A teacher once told me that in order to learn about a country's culture, you must look at its music. Because there are so many songs dedicated to the Vietnam War in Vietnamese music, it just goes to show the huge impact the war has placed on Vietnamese people.


Giao Linh- Tam Su Voi Anh

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I love Giao Linh. I love her when I was around eigh or nine and I heard her voice through my father's cassette tape. She is one of the singers whose voice remains ageless. She always sang with all of her heart and with a lot of passion Even though this is an old song, it is one of my favorite songs that Giao Linh has sung because it really showcase her special talent of making a song seems personal. The song is about a girl lamenting over loss love. Although, she has made it clear to her once-lover that she was not trying to blame him. However, when I heard Giao Linh sang this song I could not help but feel that the narrator actually was feeling some resentments toward her former lover, and at last, there is some resentments for her life as a helpless young woman.

Composer: Hoang Trang
Lyrics Translation: Mikki
English Title: Confided with You

Dispassionately, you did not try to understand me during those melancholy nights
Now I am complaining, not because I want you to compensate me, but because I am heartbroken
Because the two of us have two lives that are like one
With a common sadness at the age of twenty-two
While I have yet to completely experience love
That is why I have woken up many nights, fearing and worrying by myself
After falling in love, I often fear that I would lose you in the future
I dream of a day where firecrackers covered the street with redness (1)
But my dream was unfulfilled
Why do you think it is so? Surely, only you will know
You often told me even if our love faces difficulties
You would still remain as my dear love, forever and ever
However, being a girl who has mistakenly falling in love has made me afraid of heartache

I asked the Superior Being to let me marry the person whom I will love for the rest of my life
To let the one I love, love me a lot
Like the betel plant loving the areca tree (2)

My dear, have you realize that I am secretly crying because of our failed love
On the remorseful road, I hope that you will come to understant that I only love you
I am content with accepting to love you in pain and misery
It was like God has already decided the fate of this little life
Why do you think it is so? Surely, only you will know
You often told me even if our love faces difficulties
You would still remain as my dear love, forever and ever
However, because I am confused that is why I confided with you tonight

Translator Notes:
(1) In Vietnamese culture, red firecrackers is usually lighted up when someone is getting married. Thus, this line implies that the narrator is dreaming of the day that she would get married.
(2) This is a reference to a Vietnamese folk tale about how the betel plant, the areca tree and the tradition of offering betel leaves and areca nuts on the wedding day came to existence. The folk tale of "Trau Cau" is a story about a small misunderstanding that eventually led to the death of the two brothers and the wife of the older brother. However, because of the intense brotherly bond and the deep love between the husband and wife that they each turned into a rock, a plant, and a tree after they died. The younger brother turned into a limestone, the older brother turned into the areca tree and his wife turned into the betel plant that entwined the areca tree--always remain by her husband side.