Today I would like to recommend a Chinese student group named MelodyC2E and share some of my own thoughts on music. What they are putting efforts in, is exactly as their name: melody from Chinese to English. Here, by ‘Chinese’, I refer to the ‘Chinese language’, as the ‘Chinese song’ refers to any songs sung in Chinese by singers of various nationalities.
This group of students are quite familiar to me, not because how popular they are in China (not yet), but for they are alumnus of Shanghai International Studies University (SISU).
I first heard of them during my last grade. At that time, they’ve already started to translate the lyrics of some classical or heat Chinese pop songs into English and record the cover version in English by themselves, one song a week (I remembered that there were also some French and Spanish covers. The students in the uni like SISU normally speak multi-languages, which is relatively rare among Chinese). That was nearly two years ago.
Now, they got much more followers on their Wechat public account than the time I was in school. People find it is a fun way to learn English, so they started a column called ‘Bedtime Reading’. They record the classical poems of Chinese (e.g. The Everlasting Regret) or English (e.g. I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud) which are recited both in English, movie dialogues recitations (e.g. The Shape of Water). Besides, they will also cover some English songs they like (e.g. City of Stars).
In general, it is a platform established and run by a group of students in one of the best international studies universities in China which holds the top ranking of translation and interpretation education in Asia.
Among these, the graduate program run by the Graduate Institute of Interpretation and Translation (GIIT) of Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) represents what is considered the highest standard in China. Notably, in 2005 GIIT was awarded the highest ranking by the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) as the only Asian university among the 15 top professional conference interpreting schools in the world.
Different language is the key to different culture. They aren’t like many of our alumnus who takes it as a tool for making money (business translation, conference interpretation) as mainly use. I appreciate their effort not only because of their possession of both academic ability and musical talent, as well as the cross-culture/international awareness observed in their translation but also the spirit of sharing, respect and mutual communication.
He said, “Chinese music is boring.”
When I am working or studying abroad, there is one question that comes to me from time to time—-what type of music is your favourite?
I was twenty when I first react to this question asked by a Romania guy who knows little about China. The reason I put the stress on it, is hidden in this story.
Frankly, it should be easy to talk about music across different culture, cause music is definitely a universal topic. But I felt a cultural conflict and found really hard to answer my Romania friend at that moment. Before answering him, I was thinking about tons of answers, trying to find the one he could understand.
On the one hand, I always know that the Chinese (Mandarin/Cantonese) pop music usually sounds romantic, sappy, slow and soft without beats and climax that attract the listeners. For me, I listen to the Chinese songs a bit more than the English ones or those in other languages. Besides the language, my favourites singers or bands usually are niche ones.
For example, 90% of my favourite Chinese songs go to the independent folk singers, while the non-Chinese songs go to the band like Lady & Bird, the singer like Keren Ann, Chris Garneau… But of course, I listen to some famous ones as well, The Beatles, OneRepublic, Cold Play, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Jessie J… I like most types of music, it depends on my mood when I listen to it, and usually, I won’t care about the singer or the band’s name, just focus on the work itself🙈.
On the other hand, a. I didn’t know about the proper names of the music types precisely in English; b. The Chinese songs are relatively less tagged by the music categories, compared with which, normal people care more about the beauty of the lyrics. I guess it is because of we have a tradition to ‘sing the poem’ in the ancient time when the poem, music, dance and opera are kind of bound together.
‘Poetry is a type of language, moreover it is a type of music.’
By Ji Xianlin, a Chinese Indologist, linguist, paleographer, historian, and writer.
So, I played the only song downloaded on my phone—-I’m willing by Faye Wong. This song was created in 1994, yet still sounds beautiful today with Faye’s featured ethereal voice. But I somehow happened to have this song not because it’s my favourite and I still don’t know why.
My friend listened to it, and said: “Chinese music is boring!”
“Oi!” I would not blame him for this, but it did hurt me in some way. Okay.
The worst thing was that I had no chance to disprove it: a. I neither had wifi signal nor data at the moment, this was the only shot. b. Even if I was able to show him another one that I truly love which would be folk songs, he wouldn’t love it either, cause he could not understand the story. c. What I showed him was a famous song of Faye Wong, THE Faye Wong, OMG! She is the DIVA, the one and only QUEEN of Cantopop and Mandopop over the decades and is popular among ethnic Chinese all over the world! If her music is boring to him, I gave up trying! Whoof!
Music sans frontiers
In my case, the differences between culture and gaps of language failed to be communicated. With that experience, I became a bit reluctant to talk about music with international friends at times. From my own perspectives, most of the Chinese songs are hard to be defined as some certain genres in detail kinds, but it doesn’t mean they are boring or less qualitative (refer Tengri/watch Singer 2018). I guess that’s why I’d like to introduce MelodyC2E here today.
The group members are currently all students, they aren’t professional singers or translators and they are doing the work non-profit. Actually, right when I am writing this blog, they just opened their official YouTube channel, and I accidentally became their first follower, LOL. They uploaded only one cover so far, which is She Says by JJ Lin—-a popular song by a very prestigious Singapore singer.
So I picked some more covers from their public account on Wechat to share:
- Wonder by Chen Li (Chinese indie folk singer, no wiki page in EN), translated by He Guangtai & Chen Luyun, covered by Su Yixuan.
- Fickle You by Chen Li, translated by He Guangtai (took him over a half year), covered by Su Yixuan.
- Foam by G.E.M. (Hongkong Mandopop singer), translated by Pan Janghao, covered by Zheng Yuqing.
- The Brightest Star in the Sky by Escape plan (Chinese rock band, no wiki page in EN), translated by Lu Jiayi & Chen Luyun, covered by Zhu Qidi.
- Red Rose by Eason Chan (Hongkong Cantopop & Mandopop singer), translated by Chen Luyun, covered by Ailifeire.
- Pinto, Pinto by Song Dongye (Chinese folk/ballad singer, incomplete wiki page in EN), translated by Chen Luyun & Pan Jianghao, covered by Zhang Chenlin.
- Leave Me Alone by Tanya Chua (Singapore Mandopop singer), translated by Pan Jianghao, covered by Ailifeire.
- Red High Heels by Tanya Chua, translated by Pan Jiang hao, covered by Su Yixuan.
Thank you, guys.
Best wishes to MelodyC2E, and to those who have guts to bridge the gap between cultural differences in the past, at the present, and in the future. Cheers!