music is universal…

… or is it?

i wonder how many of you like songs with lyrics you can’t understand (because you don’t understand the language). and if you do, how many songs like these do you like?

i had always thought it was like that: good music would sound good to my ears, no matter what language the lyrics use. because if the melodies hit the right notes in my ears, they would resonate in my heart as well, causing me to like the music.

the first album i ever bought after i was done listening to kids songs (probably when i was about 10 years old) was from a band called Smokey Mountain. it’s a Filipino band, and though the song that made me bought the album was sung in English, the album was full of songs sung in Tagalog. and since i listened to it back and forth, i actually memorized all the lyrics, even the Tagalog ones. did i like the songs? definitely. did i understand Tagalog language? not at all.

and then when i was in middle school, i got addicted to seeing Chinese kung-fu TV series. one of my biggest addiction was the White Snake Legend, which was also a musical. of course i bought the album when it came out. like i did with the Smokey Mountain’s album, i played it dozens of times a day & i memorized the lyrics… which was naturally in Chinese. don’t ask me what Chinese language specifically, i still can’t tell the difference and i did not know a single meaning of those words. but i loved the songs, and that was enough.

next came the Japanese craze. blame those J-drama series they showed on the national TV channels, but i began by liking the opening songs of these series. and finally found several J-rock bands which completely rocked my world (L’arc~en~Ciel was my most fave of all). in this case, i don’t know if having a super hot singer (=Hyde!!) helped me to like the songs, but the truth is that first i came to like these songs without understanding the lyrics, and partly because of that i then decided to learn Japanese language.

afterwards, it was time for me to be introduced to Indian music. it started when i learned how to play tabla, and our teacher became sort of a family friend, and suddenly we started listening to Indian music & songs in our car whenever we went out (not Bollywood, though). i didn’t get to memorize the lyrics this time, haha… but i did remember the melodies and i can truly say that i enjoyed and liked these songs in foreign language.

after all of this, i moved to Finland. i learned the language first, before anything else, and i seemed to forget about music.

it took me a loooong while to finally be able to say that “i like this (Finnish) band/singer”. and this makes me wonder, if music really is that universal after all?

i must admit, the difference between my life here and in Jakarta was more than just the language. for example, i did not have TV for a while here in Finland, and so i was not exposed to music videos like i was back in Jakarta. the malls or shopping centers that i go to in Finland always play songs in English, and very few of them play songs in Suomi. after a while, it became a habit for me to just forget about Finnish songs, and instead i always listen to radios that play familiar songs in English.

only lately did i finally give it a chance again. i was tired of listening to my same old playlist over and over again, and also the radio that always play English songs seemed to not have moved forward with their song list. so i forced myself to listen to some other radio station, one that plays pop music in English and also Suomi. almost every day i did this, and when i one day woke up with one of the Suomi songs ringing in my head, i knew that it had worked. 😀

some of these Suomi songs i fell in love with the lyrics. some of them i fell in love with the melodies. when i realized these, i was like, hey… there are actually some really good tunes here, and Suomi language sounds more beautiful to me than ever. and then i became thankful that i can actually understand what the lyrics mean this time, it really does resonate even more with my heart when i know the meanings.

so i’m going do a little experiment and try posting some Suomi songs once in a while here. i will also attempt to translate the lyrics to English (which may not be as poetic as the actual lyrics, i’m not that good of a Finnish speaker myself yet :p). if you’d like, you can try listening to the songs first without understanding the lyrics, see if you can like the song without speaking the language. and then, after you read my bad translation, does it change your view of the song? does it make you like it more or less, or just neutral? please note that the songs to be featured are all of course based on my own taste.

to start with, i’m posting this song by Jenni Vartiainen called “Suru on kunniavieras”.

for the Suomi lyrics, you can google it yourself. block/paint the space under the video by clicking & holding down your mouse all the way to the bottom of the post to see my translation of the lyrics. 🙂

Grief Is A Guest of Honour

You need to water grief with teardrops,
So that it will spring into bloom.
Pamper it, care for it, cherish it
So it would not go to a waste.

Don’t ever turn grief away
If it comes knocking on your door.
Invite it to come inside, feed it and give it a drink
Offer it a place to stay for the night.

Then when the flower has seen summer,
It wilts to the soil of the ground.
Still, you will always see it as a flower,
Memories are the most precious treasure.
And your guest did not linger around to stay,
It went elsewhere, on its journey
Yet it will come again, after it left
Closer than you could imagine.

What your guest of honour tells you
Hide it well inside your heart.
You can’t find those teachings in any book,
You can’t buy them with millions of marks.

Man’s eyes were made for crying,
Let the tears roll down.
There will come another day,
When you have springs on your steps.

PS. the video clip, music, lyrics, and everything featured in the video does not belong to me. all the credits go to the artist(s), i only borrowed the link for my own personal use. and i apologize in advance if my translation is dead wrong/offensive to the lyric writer.

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5 thoughts on “music is universal…

  1. I am totally like that, my playlist is in so many different language, I don’t understand. Korean, Japanese, portuguese, spannish, urdu, arabic…etc Really thank goodness for lyrics online, I don’t know if I can manage if I have to stop, listen, guess what they are singing, write it down, start again, stop again…like I used to do when I am in school! The lyric to this song reminds me of a folk English song. I can’t remember who sang it.

    • ah, same again!!! even the part where we have to stop, write down, and rewind and replay it and stop it again is the same with what i did back then, hahahaha!! oh those days!

      funny, for me it was like that too, except for Finnish songs. or it used to be like that. but now i hope it will change to be the way it was. 🙂

      this particular artist’s songs sometimes do sound like folk songs. i was thinking that if LOTR’s elves were to sing in video clips, it would probably look & sound like this, since people and even Tolkien himself always compare elvish language to Suomi. 😀

  2. I think it is. I love to listen to music in many different languages. When I was in the Philippines I bought music cassette tapes in Tagalog. I think your translation is very good. Singable, I don’t know. I didn’t try. Perhaps that was not what you meant.

    • oh, i’m happy you think so! the reason why i was a bit timid to translate anything from Suomi to English in my blog is because i knew you would read it. 😀

      no, i did not mean it to be singable, i was too lazy for that, haha! i just wanted to get the meaning of the words.

      maybe one day you can share the singer(s)/bands of those tapes in Tagalog that you bought in the Philippines? i would love to know. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Finnish pop song time, part 2 | Step Into The Silver Rain

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