i know what you mean!

I woke up with a song…

Posted on: May 15, 2006


I had a dream last night of listening to Trần Tiến performing his popular Vietnamese pop song mặt trời bé con. It was one of the most emotionally vested dream I have had thus far. I have had happy dreams, peaceful dreams, exciting dreams… but they were not as intense as my dream last night, they did not evoke complex feelings and brought me to tears. The emotions I experienced in my dream last night brought me to tears. The song was sung so beautifully that every single word made sense, and every single sound evoked a kaleidoscopic (damn, I was just guess-spelled that word and I got it right!) set of images and memories. I think probably this is what it feels like to approach another dimension – that, or being high on mushrooms (Mildred described a very similar experience when she got high and read Alice in Wonderland). And you know what, the sense of having experienced something life-changing is with me still, almost 4 hours after I have woken up.

In reality, Trần Tiến performed a horrible rendition of his own song. It’s so bad that I cannot bring myself to listening to it again. Ugh. Quang Dũng’s version is just OK, maybe a 6/10 rating, mostly because the music sucks. Will I ever find the music that I have heard in my dream? Is it a message from above that I should start singing ?? Do you even know which song I’m talking about???

In the 80’s Trần Tiến wrote this song, and it was very popular in Viet Nam. It was performed regularly on Weekly’s Requests program, and it was actually very well sung by someone I can’t remember. The lyrics are simple, but it’s experience-dependent. If you have grown up listening to your neighbor’s music as daily source of entertainment, then this song would be for you. Think of dirty alleys with laundry criscrossing, narrow houses crowding next to each other so that just normal-volume radio music from one end of the alley can be heard 5,6 houses down the alley. If you were a child with just some rusty tin cans and bamboo popsicle sticks sitting in the house trying to catch some flies, the music would float by your windows like a breeze in the afternoon, a patch of white clouds drifting across the blue sky, a delicious scent of food rising above whatever’s rotting down in the alley – an inadvertent gift from life, giving itself indiscriminately.

Here are the lyrics, in Vietnamese and translation respectively.

mặt trời bé con – sáng tác: Trần Tiến

Ngoài kia có cô bé nhìn qua khe nghe tiếng đàn của tôi
Ngoài kia có chú bé trèo cành me mắt xoe tròn lắng nghe
Đàn tôi hát câu gì mà sao cô bé cười ngộ ghê
Đàn tôi hát câu gì mà sao chú bé ngồi mơ màng
Hạnh phúc quá đơn sơ, đời tôi đâu có ngờ
Từng đêm cô bé chờ như chờ từng giấc mơ

Ngày xưa cũng như bé tuổi còn thơ tôi vẫn thường trộm nghe
Nhà bên có anh lính rời xa quê hay chơi đàn rất khuya
Đàn anh đã cho tôi trời xanh như ước mơ tuổi thơ
Đàn anh đã cho tôi dòng sông mang cánh buồm khát vọng
Tuổi thơ đã đi qua, giờ đây hát bên em
Từng đêm đứng quanh tôi những mặt trời bé con

Trời mưa quá em ơi, bài ca ướt mất rồi còn đâu
Trời mưa đến bao lâu mà sao em vẫn chờ vẫn đợi
Hạnh phúc quá đơn sơ đời tôi đâu có ngờ
Từng đêm em vẫn chờ, vẫn chờ đợi dưới mưa

Little Sunshines (cantabile)

Outside there’s a child looking in listening to me
Outside there’s a child on the tree listening to me
What songs my dear strings can sing to make her — smile
What songs my dear strings can sing to set him dreaming
So simple’s the joy, of little girls and boys
Upon dreams they wait, wait for me each night

Long, long time ago, as a child, I eavesdropped like them
A soldier nearby played his songs yearning for his home
The songs of his trings did bring dreams like high blue skies
The songs of his strings sailed me through rivers of hope
Childhood has gone by, now I sing each night
As children come by, these little sunshines

It’s drenching with rains, the song’s soaked through my dear
How long will it rain, how long will you still wait there
So simple’s the joy of little girls and boys
Each night as you wait, waiting in the rain

I should add a disclaimer right now that I have also had a different set of experience: my elementary school teachers, who were VietNamese Idol wannabe’s, used to play the guitar and sung their lungs out every afternoon horrible horrible songs that no one in my house wanted to hear. This craziness had forced my sister Tram to stick her head over our balcony and screamed over to the school “Thôi đủ rồi, khổ quá!” “Oh my god, enough already!” That brought the program to an immediate halt for the day, but picked up the next day all over again. This song was in their repetoire. Badly. So it brings to my mind both the pleasant and the funny memories.

By the bye, the picture up there is my 3 hours’ worth of messing with photoshop without a clue what the heck I was doing. Coincidentally, I love it, it’s exactly what I wanted. So please don’t take it from me, I’m sure I won’t be able to reproduce it again – ever.


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