China, the Holocaust, and sodagreen

Yom Hashoah begins at sundown today and continues through tomorrow. This seems to me like the right time to revive my long (long) dormant blog and talk about sodagreen’s recent foray into Holocaust remembrance. The song “He Raised His Right Hand to Testify” [1] is from the band’s 2015 album Winter Endless, which they recorded in Berlin. This song (and the fantastic live performance video) features not just the band, but the GermanPops Orchestra.

Like a lot of Qingfeng’s writing, this song is hard to understand and hard to translate. (I googled more than one line and found long discussions in Chinese debating what he meant by certain phrases, so at least I know I’m not alone!) However I love the song – I especially love the cognitive dissonance of such a toe tapping beat, catchy melody, and dark subject matter – that I decided to take a crack at it anyway. Here’s my first shot:

他舉起右手點名 He Raised His Right Hand to Testify
作詞曲:青峰 Words and Music by Wu Qingfeng

“Did everyone conspire in this evil game?”
“That train should not have brought us here!”
“Every soul like a phantom that dies over and over.”
“Am I just a number or do I still have a name?”

“That poisonous spider knows how to make people dance for him.”
“Look! It’s about to snatch the victory ring.”
“Here they don’t even allow the faintest hope.”
“Time doesn’t exist so that nightmares can be fed.”

「被逼迫著走了岔路,還能活著再見嗎?」 “
The coerced reach a fork in the road, can they keep living to meet again?”
“Migrants” “Captives” “Homosexuals” “Gypsies” “Jews”
“Are there rumors that it really hates us so much?”
“Decades from now, will the world still be like this?”

“I don’t resent suffering, but I do resent suffering for no reason.”
“Dear listeners, if you had the choice, would you want to be the victim or the perpetrator?”

“His silky tones caused us to be concentrated here like ants.”
“Diseased Red Cross!” “Contorted Star of David!”
“Awoken, bloody and battered, by the cry of a dream.”
“Give it a finger and it’ll want my whole hand!”

“Add up every soul and together they cannot satisfy its craving!”
“It’d be better to die standing than keep on living kneeling.”
“Before loving your enemies, you must first hate your friends.”
“When you live in the flames you become a firefly.”

“Because of his injustice the first murderer was created.”
“From knowledge came original sin!” “Don’t use a covenant to control me.”
“Fate is blind, who can grasp a lock of hair?”
“Lord! The poisonous gas surrounds me, I gradually lose myself…”

“Me… my hand!” “My face!” “My insanity!”
“Take off your clothes and hat!” “Open your teeth and mouth!”
“Examine your heart and kidneys!” “Peel away your soul and spirit!”

“Me… my hand!” “My face!” “My insanity!”
“Why did I believe you!” “Since when are you truthful!”
“Who cares whether it’s scriptural!” “Who cares if there’s a reference!”

“Me… my hand!” “My face!” “My insanity!”
“Sufi, Shiva, rescue me!” “All the gods and sages have fallen!”
“Who can control reincarnation into Nirvana!” “Do what you always do!”
“Me! My hand!” “My face!” “My insanity!”
“Consumed by the fire and wind of the headhunters!” “The stars have already fallen!”
「גאולה… סליחה… תשובה…」「ॐ मणि पद्मे हूँ 」
“Repentance… forgiveness…redemption” “Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ

“Shh! Be quiet! I want to slip easily from sleep into the cemetery!”
“Hey! An envoy… bearing an olive branch… I see someone bringing it….”
“I really miss… Miss home.. Face filled with joy, joy…”
“A mouthful of nonsense… count to seven… maybe I’m guilty!”
“Why am I guilty!”
“If I am God is too…”

Quite aside from the fact that it’s an amazing song, this one speaks to me right now. I’m finishing up an eight month fellowship at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where I’ve been doing research for a book on refugees from the Holocaust in China during and especially after World War Two. Here’s just one example of the kinds of stories there are to tell about escaping to Shanghai, then escaping Shanghai after the war. I hereby declare this sodagreen song the official theme song of this book project. [2]

Of course, this song is also a reminder of how much I still love Mandopop, even if I haven’t blogged about it in almost five (!) years.[3]

And as strange as it is to listen to a song that makes you want to get up and dance and think about lives – families – whole communities cruelly and brazenly destroyed, finding new ways to remember the Holocaust – even in Mandarin, with jazzy tempos – is an important part of the worldwide commitment to “Never Again.”

[1] The “official” translation of the song title is apparently “He raised his hand to make a roll call,” though I suspect that the clear reference to it being his right hand, and the subject matter in which “testimony” plays such a powerful role, makes me think my slightly altered title is a better fit (in addition to scanning much better in English).

[2] My first book also had an official theme song, though I failed to acknowledge it in the preface.

[3] I am absurdly proud I could still figure out how to log in to this blog.

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One Response to China, the Holocaust, and sodagreen

  1. H says:

    Glad to see you back 😀 (just in time for another GMA fiasco too hehe) , in the past few years I contemplated backing up some of the blog’s translation just in case you abandoned it completely and the domain expires(!). Never got around to it but I guess I won’t have to just yet 😀 Welcome back!

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