Tag Archives: Folk song

Korean Folksong 2: Dong, Dong, Dongdaemun

Entry 16: 

1) 

Original: 동, 동, 동대문을 열어라,

남, 남, 남대문을 열어라,

12시가 되면은

문을 닫는다.

Romanization/Transliteration: 

Dong, dong, dong-dae-mon-eul yul-uh-lah

Nam, nam, nam-dae-moon-eul yul-uh-rah

12 shi-ga dwae-myun-eun

Moon-eul dad-neun-da

Full Translation: 

Open the east, east, east great gate. 

Open the south, south, south great gate. 

When the clock strikes 12

The gates are closed. 

2) My Korean grandmother shared this song with me because it was associated with a game she played in elementary school. She said it was one of the things she looked forward to most everyday because it gave her a break to have fun in between discipline and learning. 

3) This performance was actually done by my grandmother and mother together. My grandmother sang the lyrics, and my mother, being a pianist, improvised an accompaniment along with the melody.

4) This song is based off of a Korean children’s game in which two people form the “Dongdaemun gates” by making an arch with their arms while they sing the song. People keep circling through the gate until the song ends – the last two people who fail to make it through become the new “gate.” Both the East and South gates were major protectors of Seoul’s Royal Palace during the Joseon Dynasty. This song has its charm in that the idea of historical architecture which is hundreds of years old has been preserved and transformed into a game that is still played to this day. Folklore has the idea of creating great contrast – the gates were seen as a sacred protector that preserved Seoul during many grave invasions, but they are now referred to in a highly jovial context. 

Korean Folksong 3: choo-eun baram

1) 

Original: 

날 부르는 바람이 왜 이렇게 차가운 걸까?

차가운데 나에게 희망을 주는 것이다

날 부르는 바람이 날 어디로 인도하는 걸까?

이 차가움을 견디고 따라 갈 것이다

Romanization/Transliteration: 

Nal boo-reuh-neun ba-ram-ee wae ee-ruh-kae cha-ga-oon-gul-kka?

cha-ga-oon-dae na-ae-gae hee-mang-eul joo-neun-guh-shee-dah.

nal boo-reun-neun ba-ram-ee nal uh-di-loh indoh-ha-neun gul-kka?

ee cha-ga-oom-eul gyun-di-go dda-rah gal-guh-shee-dah.

Full Translation: 

Oh wind who’s calling me, why are you so cold? 

Despite the cold, you also give me hope.

Oh wind who’s calling me, where are you leading me?

I will endure the chill of your breeze, and follow you. 

2) My Korean grandmother introduced this folk song, called “cold wind,” to me because it was a song that she learned during middle school, but came to have great meaning to her after she immigrated to America in her late 20s. She said her decision to come to America made her scared, but she was willing to endure this fear for the possibility of a future as a nurse in the US. 

3) This performance was actually done by my grandmother and mother together. My grandmother sang the lyrics, and my mother, being a pianist, improvised an accompaniment along with the melody. It was a set of four Korean folk songs that they performed in front of me and the rest of our family. 

4) I connect this folk song to the Korean concept of ‘Han.’ Han is an emotion that connotes an accumulation of Koreans’ suffering over time. It is a very dynamic emotion that has a fierce color that could almost signal the energy and birth of new possibilities. I think the song my grandma sang connects to this concept because although it invokes the necessity of suffering along a certain road, it also signals that there should be hope that despite this suffering a worthwhile outcome could arise. 

Korean Folksong 4: Fate’s Appearance

1) 

Original: 

빛나는 그대를 보면 볼수록 태양이 어두워진다

청국의 가장 아름다운 천사들도 평범해 보여지게 하는 그대가 

어디에서 온 걸까? 

다른 세계 – 가능

다른 세월 – 가능

이 세계 – 확실히 불가능

우리의 출신이 세상 차이니 낯선데 뭔가 인연인 듯이 익숙하다

Romanization / Transliteration: 

Bit-na-neun geu-dae-reul bo-myun bol-soo-rok tae-yang-ee eoh-doo-wuh-jin-da

chung-kook-eh ga-jang ah-reum-da-oon chun-sah-deul-do pyung-bum-hae bo-yuh-ji-gae ha-neun geu-dae ga eoh-di-ae-suh on-gul-kka?

da-reun seh-gye – ga-neung

da-reun seh-woul – ga-neung

Ee-seh-gye – hawk-shil-hee bool-ga-neung

Oo-ree-eh chool-sheen-ee sae-sang cha-i-ni nat-sun-dae mwon-ga in-yun-in deu-si eek-sook-ha-da

Full Translation: 

The more I see you shine, the darker the sun gets. 

Where did you, who can make even heaven’s most beautiful angels appear ordinary, come from? 

A different world is possible

A different time is possible

But you being from the same world is without a doubt impossible

Since our origins are so different, you seem strange, but something, as if it’s fate, is familiar

2) My Korean grandmother introduced this folk song, called “인연의 나타남” (fate’s appearance) to me because it was a song that she learned during highschool, and it came to have great meaning for her when she met my grandfather. She said the song is about a very idealistic love, and she told me that she hopes people don’t yet give up on the idea that such a love could possibly exist. 

3) This performance was actually done by my grandmother and mother together. My grandmother sang the lyrics, and my mother, being a pianist, improvised an accompaniment along with the melody. It was a set of four Korean folk songs that they performed in front of me and the rest of our family. 

4) This song is centered around the idea of two lovers who are of completely different backgrounds. The subject of the folk song is a person who appears almost perfect, so perfect that assuming a relationship with that person seems near impossible. However, the concept of fate, Inyun, in Korean plays a big role in the song’s theme. It suggests that no matter how infeasible this relationship seems, if fate wills its manifestation then it will come to be. This song also leads me to compare Inyun with the concept of Akyun, which depicts a relationship that is also subject to fate, but is instead bound to be ill-fated. Comparing these two concepts, it becomes clear that Korean tradition attributes both miracles and tragedies to the idea of fate. 

“The Johnson Boys” Campfire Song

Context:

KR’s grandfather was a Scoutmaster in Ontario who led Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts on camping trips and also enjoyed going camping with his own family. He remembers this piece as one of the songs his grandfather used to sing around the campfire with them.

Main Piece:

“The Johnson Boys”

Verse 1:  
Oh, the Johnson boys, the Johnson boys,
They lived on a mill on the side of the hill,
Verse 2:
Oohh, the Johnson boys, the Johnson boys,
They lived on a mill on the side of the hill,
Verse 3:
Ooohhhhh, the Johnson boys, the Johnson boys,
They lived on a mill on the side of the hill.

Continue ad infinitum, with the “oh” being drawn out longer with each repetition of the verse.

Analysis:

KR remembers “The Johnson Boys,” as “the song with one hundred thousand verses.” He says it’s, “a fun little song that everyone gets to chime in on,” since the lyrics were easy to remember and stretching out the “oh” always made the kids laugh. This song fulfills the classic roles of a good campfire song: something easy to pick up and remember, but with a fun twist to entertain the children. Since KR’s grandfather was a scout leader, the trips he led were mainly composed of children, it makes sense that he would have a library of these songs that are easily accessible for anyone.

This facet of folk song is interesting to me because while it is folk culture, it is also in some ways an institutionally pushed song. By this I do not mean that it was integrated into standardized education, or utilized by the government/corporations, but it significantly differs from some other children’s songs because it is a song that was taught to children by adults, and generally performed between children and adults. Often, folkloric children’s chants and songs evolve within the young population, perhaps even against the will of the adults surrounding them. But this song, and other campfire songs like it, are more of a bridge between the cultural worlds of the child and the adult leaders. They are neither the children’s song (because the children did not create it or claim it as their own to change and sing on their own) but also not a song for the adults (because the adults sing it primarily for the enjoyment of the children).

En el Muelles de San Blas- Folk song by Mana

Context:

A is a Mexican immigrant from the state of Nayarit. They heard of this legend when they lived in the city of Tepic, which was about an hour away from where the legend takes place. San Blas is a well-know beach and was frequently visited by A.

The context of this piece was over a dinner when we were discussing future plans to visit Nayarit, specifically which beaches we were going to. A mentioned the legend and showed me the song.

Text:

Uh-uh-uh-uh, uh-uh

Ella despidió a su amor
El partió en un barco en el muelle de San Blas
El juró que volvería
Y empapada en llanto, ella juró que esperaría

Miles de lunas pasaron
Y siempre ella estaba en el muelle, esperando
Muchas tardes se anidaron
Se anidaron en su pelo y en sus labios

Uh-uh-uh-uh, uh-uh

Uh-uh-uh-uh, uh-uh

Llevaba el mismo vestido
Y por si él volviera, no se fuera a equivocar
Los cangrejos le mordían
Su ropaje, su tristeza y su ilusión

Y el tiempo se escurrió
Y sus ojos se le llenaron de amaneceres
Y del mar se enamoró
Y su cuerpo se enraizó en el muelle

, sola en el olvido
(Sola), sola con su espíritu
(Sola), sola con su amor el mar
(Sola), en el muelle de San Blas

Su cabello se blanqueó
Pero ningún barco a su amor le devolvía
Y en el pueblo le decían
Le decían la loca del muelle de San Blas

Y una tarde de abril
La intentaron trasladar al manicomio
Nadie la pudo arrancar
Y del mar nunca jamás la separaron

, sola en el olvido
(Sola), sola con su espíritu
(Sola), sola con su amor el mar
(Sola), en el muelle de San Blas

, sola en el olvido
(Sola), sola con su espíritu
(Sola), sola con el sol y el mar
(Sola), ¡Oh, sola!

Sola en el olvido
(Sola), sola con su espíritu
(Sola), sola con su amor el mar
(Sola), en el muelle de San Blas

Se quedó
Se quedó sola, sola
Se quedó
Se quedó con el sol y con el mar

Se quedó ahí
Se quedó hasta el fin
Se quedó ahí
Se quedó en el muelle de San Blas

Uoh, oh-oh-oh

Sola, sola se quedó
Uoh, oh-oh-oh

// Translation:

Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh, uh-uh

She said goodbye to her love

He left on a boat at the pier in San Blas

He swore he’d come back

And drenched in tears, she swore she’d wait

Thousands of moons passed

And always she stood on the dock, waiting

Many afternoons nested

They nested in her hair and on her lips

Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh, uh-uh

Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh, uh-uh

She wore the same dress

And just in case he came back, he wouldn’t be wrong

The crabs were biting him

Her clothes, her sadness and her illusion

And time slipped away

And her eyes were filled with sunrises

And she fell in love with the sea

And her body took root on the pier

Alone in oblivion

(Alone), alone with her spirit

(Alone), alone with her love for the sea

(Alone), alone on the pier of San Blas

Her hair bleached white

But no ship to her love returned to her

And in the town they called her

They called her the madwoman of the pier of San Blas

And one April afternoon

They tried to transfer her to the asylum

No one could tear her away

And from the sea they never ever separated her

Alone in oblivion

(Alone), alone with her spirit

(Alone), alone with her love for the sea

(Alone), on the pier of San Blas

alone in oblivion

(Alone), alone with her spirit

(Alone), alone with the sun and the sea

(Alone), Oh, alone!

Alone in oblivion

(Alone), alone with her spirit

(Alone), alone with her love the sea

(Alone), on the pier of San Blas

She stayed

She stayed alone, alone

She stayed

She stayed with the sun and the sea

She stayed there

She stayed until the end

She stayed there

He stayed on the pier of San Blas

Uoh, oh-oh-oh-oh

Alone, alone she stayed

Uoh, oh-oh-oh

Analysis:

This text describes the legend of the crazed woman of San Blas. This song was made by the well-known Mexican rock band Mana and is around the folklore of the madwoman of the pier of San Blas. It was said that she was a young and beautiful woman that had fallen in love with a young sailor, possibly a fisherman. The two fell madly in love but their time together was brief as he left once his work was done in Nayarit. His departure was set to be from the shores of San Blas, a popular beach in Nayarit.  Before leaving, he promised he would come back for her and marry her. As the song says, she stood there for a thousand nights and spent the entirety of her life waiting for him to come back. The legend says that the overwhelming feels of sadness, nostalgia, and desperation drove her into madness. It was said that in her state of madness, she began to head to the pier in a wedding gown with a veil and bouquet to wait for her groom to return to her. I found this song especially interesting as it was able to turn a somewhat niche local lore and publicize to the masses. I enjoyed how the band was able to transform the lore into a musical piece that captured the lore’s essence.