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

「這是眾人共謀的一個惡遊戲?」
“Did everyone conspire in this evil game?”
「那火車不應該載我們到這裡!」
“That train should not have brought us here!”
「個個幽靈像死了又死的魅影。」
“Every soul like a phantom that dies over and over.”
「我是一個編號還是擁有姓名?」
“Am I just a number or do I still have a name?”

「那毒蜘蛛懂得讓人手舞足蹈。」
“That poisonous spider knows how to make people dance for him.”
「看!它們正要奪走凱旋的指環。」
“Look! It’s about to snatch the victory ring.”
「這裡甚至不容許粗糙的渴望。」
“Here they don’t even allow the faintest hope.”
「時間是不存在的,讓惡夢餵養。」
“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?”
「移民」「俘虜」「同性戀」「吉普賽」「猶太」
“Migrants” “Captives” “Homosexuals” “Gypsies” “Jews”
「有沒有它這麼恨我們的八卦?」
“Are there rumors that it really hates us so much?”
「幾十年後,世界會不會還一樣……」
“Decades from now, will the world still be like this?”

「令人憤慨的不是受苦,而是受這苦沒理由!」
“I don’t resent suffering, but I do resent suffering for no reason.”
「看官們,若有選擇,你會當受害者或劊子手?」
“Dear listeners, if you had the choice, would you want to be the victim or the perpetrator?”

「它的綸音讓我們集中如螻蟻。」
“His silky tones caused us to be concentrated here like ants.”
「瘟疫的紅十字!」「痙攣的六角星……」
“Diseased Red Cross!” “Contorted Star of David!”
「被自己的夢吼驚醒多血淋淋。」
“Awoken, bloody and battered, by the cry of a dream.”
「給它一根指頭,它要我整隻手!」
“Give it a finger and it’ll want my whole hand!”

「所有生靈加起來,也不值它一個慾望!」
“Add up every soul and together they cannot satisfy its craving!”
「寧可站著死去,也不跪著苟活。」
“It’d be better to die standing than keep on living kneeling.”
「在愛仇敵之前,卻先恨了朋友。」
“Before loving your enemies, you must first hate your friends.”
「住進一朵火焰,就成為螢火蟲。」
“When you live in the flames you become a firefly.”

「因為他的不公才有了第一個殺人犯。」
“Because of his injustice the first murderer was created.”
「智慧帶來原罪!」「別用契約馴服我。」
“From knowledge came original sin!” “Don’t use a covenant to control me.”
「命運瞎了眼,誰能抓一綹頭髮?」
“Fate is blind, who can grasp a lock of hair?”
「天!毒氣已四溢,我逐漸失去我……」
“Lord! The poisonous gas surrounds me, I gradually lose myself…”

「我……我的手!」「我的臉!」「我的瘋狂!」
“Me… my hand!” “My face!” “My insanity!”
「脫下你的衣和帽!」「打開你的齒和嘴!」
“Take off your clothes and hat!” “Open your teeth and mouth!”
「檢查你的心和腎!」「剝離你的靈和魂!」
“Examine your heart and kidneys!” “Peel away your soul and spirit!”

「我……我的手!」「我的臉!」「我的瘋狂!」
“Me… my hand!” “My face!” “My insanity!”
「為什麼要相信你!」「你哪裡會是真理!」
“Why did I believe you!” “Since when are you truthful!”
「誰管是不是經典!」「誰管有沒有頁數!」
“Who cares whether it’s scriptural!” “Who cares if there’s a reference!”

「我……我的手!」「我的臉!」「我的瘋狂!」
“Me… my hand!” “My face!” “My insanity!”
「蘇菲濕婆請解救!」「聖哲神佛都入墮!」
“Sufi, Shiva, rescue me!” “All the gods and sages have fallen!”
「輪迴涅槃誰操縱!」「如你一般怎麼做!」
“Who can control reincarnation into Nirvana!” “Do what you always do!”
「我!我的手!」「我的臉!」「我的瘋狂!」
“Me! My hand!” “My face!” “My insanity!”
「出草火大風大中!」「曉星早已經墜落!」
“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

「噓!別吵!想安穩睡個覺就等著進墳場!」
“Shh! Be quiet! I want to slip easily from sleep into the cemetery!”
「喂!使者…有橄欖枝…我看到人帶來…」
“Hey! An envoy… bearing an olive branch… I see someone bringing it….”
「我很想…想到家…臉覺得快…快樂…」
“I really miss… Miss home.. Face filled with joy, joy…”
「滿口譫語…數到七……或許我有…罪!」
“A mouthful of nonsense… count to seven… maybe I’m guilty!”
「為何我有罪!」
“Why am I guilty!”
「若我說祂也…………。」
“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.”

Notes:
[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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