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Archive for the ‘music’ Category

So Badly My Eyes Hurt, So Badly – a Romanian Folk Song

Posted by E on February 4, 2016

I first heard this song when I was in Romania in the spring of 2015, digging into my family’s secret past. My family defected from Romania in the mid-eighties, before the Revolution that ended Ceausescu’s dictatorship, but there were Securitate records and secrets that I still had to uncover, so I returned to my old haunting grounds, my bullet-scarred Bucharest.

Perhaps I’d heard this song before, sometime in my lost childhood, because a curious sense of deja vu and aching loneliness came over me with those first notes. It was like I received a punch to the gut….and since I blocked so much trauma from my early childhood, I realized that I had something to learn from this experience. Impulsively, I grabbed a sketchbook and decided to set upon translating this old folks song, if only because I couldn’t find another translation into English anywhere online. Its Romanian title is Rau Ma Dor Ochii, Ma Dor – which roughly translates to Badly my eyes hurt, hurt me.

As a poet and someone who cares more about the feeling and meaning in the words, I chose to do a looser translation that focuses more on the meaning of the lyrics rather than the literal translation. I kept most of the authentic words wherever possible, but hopefully I succeeded in conveying the deep, bottomless longing and painful sadness that lingers in this song and makes it haunting… least to my own ears.

For the first week I kept listening to this song, I couldn’t stop myself from breaking into tears: it reminded me of the essence of why I was in Romania, chasing ghosts and demons and being unable to stop until I understood WHY. Why did my family’s path take the turn that led me into a cold and foreign country, and why did CNSAS, the authorities who inherited the Securitate Archives, prevent my father’s files from being released more twenty years after his death.

Could it have something to do with him being murdered within 24 hours of his return to Bucharest in 1988? Could it have something to do with the fact that I was followed by a plain-clothes agent in Bucharest and told in no uncertain terms that I should stop asking questions about my father’s death?

The song is called “So badly my eyes hurt, so badly.” There are countless renditions of it, but this one – sang by these two young women of the Romanian Armed Forces, haunted me the most – and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

As I mentioned earlier, I found no English translation online so I gave my best effort to convey the sentiment of this old, traditional Romanian folk song from the mountains of Transylvania. It’s pure heartache in song, a deep sadness and ache that I’m certain I failed to describe within the simplicity of this translation – but the melody transcends the language.

So badly my eyes hurt, so badly
From the brightness of the stars
And I go, and then again I go
Down to the river under the walnut tree
I make myself, and again I make myself
Chop wood from fir and wood from birch

So badly my feet hurt, so badly
From walking all the beaten paths
And so badly my eyes hurt, so badly
From witnessing the pain of those leaves

So badly does my heart ache
That you love another one
But I will leave without knowing
And I go, and then again I go
Down to the river under the walnut tree
And I make myself, and then again I make myself
Chop wood from fir and wood from birch.

Where you have gone, I do not know
Just that my soul is empty and hollow
And so I go, and on I go
to the river under the walnut tree
and again I make myself, and make myself again
chop fir and to chop birch
and so badly my eyes hurt, so badly
from feeling the pain of those leaves.

field haystacks

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Posted in music, poetry, romania | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ojala pudiera olvidar

Posted by E on October 10, 2008

Here is a song that sums up the desire to purge someone or something out of your system, what it feels like to long for death rather than be haunted by the image of someone who ripped your heart out of your chest. A song about someone who made you feel that you could never write another verse, or live to see another dawn without thinking of her. It is a song about purging yourself from a deep wrenching, unrequited and undeserved loyalty and adoration to a person, to a place, to a feeling that only serves to bring you pain.

When I first heard it this year, it brought back all the bittersweet emotions of my early twenties, when all I thought about was this:
Ojalá pudiera olvidar tu nombre
Ojalá pudiera olvidar cuando yo quisiera
Ojalá pudiera olvidar todas tus promesas
Ojalá pudiera olvidar todo el dolor que tu dejaste

Silvio Rodriguez’s hauntingly beautiful, sad song is all about leaving behind the tragedy and agony of what could have been; it is about letting go of the ghosts, and saying goodbye. It is about reclaiming your soul.

This is pure emotion in poetry. It is stunning and visceral. Listen to it.

Ojalá can be translated either as “I hope” or “hopefully.”)

Ojalá que las hojas no te toquen el cuerpo cuando caigan–
Hopefully the leaves won’t touch your body as they fall
Para que no las puedas convertir en cristal.– so you won’t be able to turn them into crystal

Ojalá que la lluvia deje de ser milagro que baja por tu cuerpo.–
hopefully the rain will cease to be a miracle sliding down your body
Ojalá que la luna pueda salir sin ti.– hopefully the moon will be able to rise without you
Ojalá que la tierra no te bese los pasos.– hopefully the earth won’t kiss your footsteps

Ojalá se te acabe la mirada constante,– hopefully your constant (piercing) gaze will end
La palabra precisa, la sonrisa perfecta.– the precise word, the perfect smile
Ojalá pase algo que te borre de pronto:– hopefully something will happen that will erase you soon
Una luz cegadora, un disparo de nieve.– a blinding light, a shot of snow
Ojalá por lo menos que me lleve la muerte,– hopefully, at least death will take me
Para no verte tanto, para no verte siempre– so I won’t see you so much, so I won’t see you forever
En todos los segundos, en todas las visiones:– in every second, in every vision
Ojalá que no pueda tocarte ni en canciones– hopefully I won’t even be able to touch you even in songs
Ojalá que la aurora no de gritos que caigan en mi espalda.– hopefully the dawn’s screams won’t fall upon my back
Ojalá que tu nombre se le olvide a esa voz.– hopefully that voice (the dawn’s) will forget your name
Ojalá las paredes no retengan tu ruido de camino cansado.–
hopefully the walls won’t echo the sound of your tired footsteps
Ojalá que el deseo se vaya tras de ti,– hopefully my desire will follow you
A tu viejo gobierno de difuntos y flores.– to your old rule of the dead and flowers

Ojalá se te acabe la mirada constante,– Rep.
La palabra precisa, la sonrisa perfecta.
Ojalá pase algo que te borre de pronto:
Una luz cegadora, un disparo de nieve.
Ojalá por lo menos que me lleve la muerte,
Para no verte tanto, para no verte siempre
En todos los segundos, en todas las visiones:
Ojalá que no pueda tocarte ni en canciones

Ojalá pase algo que te borre de pronto:– Rep.
Una luz cegadora, un disparo de nieve.
Ojalá por lo menos que me lleve la muerte,
Para no verte tanto, para no verte siempre
En todos los segundos, en todas las visiones:
Ojalá que no pueda tocarte ni en canciones.

Posted in music, poetry | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Potty over Potts? The reason why Paul Potts has become the people’s Pavarotti

Posted by E on October 23, 2007

Potty over Potts – the reason why Paul Potts is becoming the people’s Pavarotti

His tenor range is astounding, and even though his technique could use some polishing up, Paul Potts has found his niche, percariously sandwiched between Pavarotti and Bocelli.
The reason – with his hobbit-like pudgy figure, his crooked front teeth and his misty-eyed sadness, he personifies everyman. His talent is not propelled by surgically-altered, photoshop-ed good looks; his stories of low self-esteem and being bullied in school ring true to all of us who have been there. As a true underdog, he is one of us; he represents the millions of average looking people who go about their mundane days, secretly harbouring talents that they do not believe would ever take them anywhere.

The difference between Paul Potts and your local butcher, or that guy who sold you the paper this morning, only came out of the flip of a coin. Dejected after several previous failed attempts at breaking into the opera world, now a cell phone salesman working 3 jobs, Paul decided he would flip a coin to decide whether he should audition for Britain Got Talent. The coin landed on heads, and Paul’s future changed forever.

How broken can this man’s self-confidence have been, to have to rely on the flip of a coin to make this decision for him? As he stood on that stage in his cheap $70 polyester suit singing his heart out, in that one moment in time doing what he was born to do, he must have had no idea that he would capture the attention and affection of millions of people throughout the world. According to interviews done after he won Britain’s Got Talent, Potts confessed that the audition was to be his last performance, after which he would hang up his musical hat and quit opera. So many hard knocks, the lack of money to pursue further lessons, coupled with his health problems and bike accident from the previous year, had led him to that climactic moment of Should I quit now, or just flip a coin and go to that audition?

This week I bought his new CD – One Chance. It is beautiful. His Nessun Dorma made me cry, and only Pavarotti’s version has ever done that. Though not nearly as powerful as Luciano, I do think his voice is better than Bocelli’s, and with enough work I truly believe he could rival Mario Lanza.

It’s worth the money if you can get your hands on it. So few opera and classical CDs these days are worth the glossy covers they’re printed on. Certainly, this CD is far superior to the drivel produced by pretty boys Il Divo and Josh Groban.

Paul Potts is a miracle of the average, a foot-soldier in the wars to come – the impending wars against the pretty, the skinny, the superficial. He is our banner in the revolution toward meaning. His heart-felt singing brings back images of earlier times, sunny Italian days where a young Caruso serenaded his friends and relatives over vino and olives on the vibrant crooked streets of Napoli. Potts’ voice makes us cry and laugh together; it greets us like old friends and invites us over for a pint and a ditty.

His triumph is not only that of the everyman, it is the confirmation that any one of us can follow a dream – it is a dream that nobody thinks you can achieve, that you keep hidden inside, afraid that others will laugh at you or tease you for being so foolish or too lofty in your goals. And so the dream just burns you up inside, eats at your willpower like a tapeworm, and while you go about your everyday, for many years, getting up to go to work and spending all your days answering to other people, ignoring that which you are really meant to do – and through all this, your dream remains caged inside your heart like a bird.

But one day, the bird demands to break free or to die. Because all of us eventually come to that crossroads, where we have to make the choice – do we continue being fearful, or do we allow ourselves to leap into the unknown, risking the shame of fall in order to honour the soaring of our spirits. So many people keep themselves too numb so they do not have to face this choice. Someday, they say, someday I will do this or that. But does that someday ever come for them?

 There will come a day when you will be faced with a choice. Do I risk everything to be the person I’ve always known myself to be, and allow it to emerge beyond the jeers, laughter or catcalls that may follow? Can I be honest enough with myself to stand still in front of a mirror, look myself in the eye and know something nobody else does – that I am far greater than this, this person everybody else believes I am? Will today be the day when that bird will fly out of the cage of my heart into the essence of my being?

We are so hungry for something, a sign of something beyond this talentless void that is modern culture, that when someone like Potts comes along, a fragile, chipped-toothed man with the soul of a pearl, the world recognizes and embraces him as a prodigal brother and son. In his success, as in the vibrant echo of his voice, our essence also soars unfettered.

Posted in art, commentary, culture, life, media, music, opera, revolution | 8 Comments »