Saturday, October 7, 2006

Singapore Dreaming / 望春風

I watched Singapore Dreaming with Steph this past week. If you haven't watched it, it'll be showing at GV until at least next Wednesday. Now this is one of the top 2 local movies I've seen; and I can't decide what number one is.

The even better thing is that the music that starts off the movie, 望春風, is one of my favourite songs. Its motif gets done in different ways and is repeated throughout the movie. 望春風 (Longing for the Spring Breeze) is an old song, generally acknowledged as Taiwan's unofficial national anthem. (More background here.) Now I wonder, apart from the soothing melody, why on earth did the music people (I think it's Dr Sydney Tan and co.? Actually it was Director Woo Yen Yen who chose the song.) use this as the theme song for the movie? I've talked about old songs last year. I argued then that traditional songs are essential to building up a nation's culture. Maybe the national song of Taiwan was used in the movie to highlight the lack of importance placed on building a national culture here in Singapore. (And no, songs like Stand Up for Singapore do not count! LOL) Despite the fact that MM Lee says there's no Singapore culture (to the chagrin of lots of people), I think without a culture, we'd all be in limbo.

Of course there's a culture; the things that locals believe in. Dreaming tries to tease that apart. In the process, we find how disturbing some of our stereotypes are. So, is 望春風, and the things it hints at, the answer? Maybe. The context for the song is longing, and so is the movie. We're all longing for (or dreaming of) something, but what is the right thing to long for? It's not explicitly stated in the movie, although the Chinese beer-promoting woman does provide some clues... I think perhaps the answer is love (like in the song). Love is like oxygen. Love is a many splendoured thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love! And then some would say, love can only result from the 5Cs. Oops. We're back at square one. I wonder whether this aspect of our culture can be changed... For now, bring on the old songs...

Anyway, other places that you can find 望春風 is in Kenny G's Miracles: The Holiday Album (Asia Edition) and a video of some kids singing the song. (Cute!) David Tao's first eponymous album (Flash animation of song here) has it too. According to Wikipedia, 'The album also featured an a cappella song, Spring Wind, which was a new R&B version of a favorite old Taiwanese song. David sang all the vocals in this song, which still stands today, widely regarded as one of the best a cappella songs in Chinese.' The neutrality of this opinion is disputed, however. What's undisputed is that you must watch SGDreaming! Go TalkingCock folks!!
Update(!): I just got the movie soundtrack. There are four wonderful major variations of the song and three minor ones, and the rest of the album is really good too. The piano interpretation by Stephen Hough is just shockingly stunning... some background on the music...
"The Hokkien song' Bong Chun Hong" (Pining for the Spring Breeze" serves as a recurring motif in the film. The song is very popular in Taiwan, where it's almost their unofficial second national anthem. When the directors were writing the script in New York, they wanted a song to evoke the past, and also illuminate the characters of the parents. Yen Yen Woo called her mother in Singapore to ask for songs from the days when she was dating her father. The first song she came up with was "Bong Chun Hong", which unlocked a flood of memories in the old lady about many places in Singapore that have either disappeared or have changed beyond recognition. The directors picked the song and incorporated Woo's mother's memories into the script." From IMDB.
(Click for bigger pictures.) 望春風

do ya bo pua shui ding he
Spending the night alone under some lights

qing hong dui min cui
The refreshing wind blowing on her face

zarp qi bae hui bue chuk ge
Seventeen, eighteen, yet unmarried

shiu zoc shiao len ge
Thinking of a young man

go ren biao tee mi ba bae,
 Turns out he's handsome and has fair complexion

xia ga lang zhu di
Which family is he from?

xiu bei meng yi gia paiseh
Want to ask, but afraid of being embarrassed

shim lai dua pi pae
Heart beating like the pipa


carkeats said...

I was fortunate to stumble onto your blog while search for guitar chords for the song, Spring Breeze. I happened to be looking for the romanised hokkien lyrics. I am grateful for your version. You see I can't read or speak Mandarin. Therefore I am dependent on the romanised hokkien. This a really a beautiful song.

jeffyen said...

It sure is a nice song... I'm not sure I got the romanised stuff exactly right though... :)

tim said...

Nicole Lai , one of the singer for this soundtrack has passed away on Sept 6 2008, of skin cancer.

She has such a heavenly voice,now in heaven :) so sad but God has his purposes.Her daughter Carmen 15,sings beautifully too. Happened to listen to 100.3 when she was interviewd and she sung together with her daughter.

Just happened to pass by yr blog and let you know.

ed said...

Hi Jeff

Really fantastic to stumble across your blog. Couldn't find the romanized hokkien lyrics for the song. But do you have the second verse?