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Shiwei Li

A Tune By the River by Shiwei Li

江上的云 那咿哟 那咿
一朵 那咿那咿
爱人的船 那咿 何时还

A cloud above the river
A cloud
My lover’s boat, when will it be back?
Like the cloud that I’ll never see again

河边的风 那咿哟 那咿
一阵 那咿那咿
爱人的帆 那咿 心心念

Wind by the river bank
My lover’s sail, I miss dearly
(Such feeling) is like a chilling wind
Blowing in the empty sky

嘣嘣嘣 嘣嘣嘣
嘣嘣嘣 嘣嘣嘣
何时靠岸 何时靠岸
何时靠岸 何时靠岸

Hey, ho…
When will I dock? When will I dock?
When will I dock? When will I dock?

天上的鸟 那咿哟 那咿
一只 那咿那咿
爱人的眼 那咿 不念旧

A Bird in the sky
A bird
My lover’s eyes don’t see the old times
Like a bird that never looks back

水里的鱼 那咿哟 那咿
一条 那咿哟 鱼 那咿
爱人的心 那咿 不停留

A fish in the water
A fish
My lover’s heart isn’t staying
Like a fish swimming toward the ocean

嘣嘣嘣 嘣嘣嘣
嘣嘣嘣 嘣嘣嘣
河水向东流 没有缘由
河水向东流 没有缘由

Hey, ho…
No reason, rivers just flow away
No reason, rivers just flow away

河边的风 那咿 (Woman:河边风) 那咿哟
江上 那咿 (Woman:江上云) 云 那咿哟
只见远去的帆 不见归来的船

Wind by the river bank (Wind by the river bank)
A cloud above the river (A cloud above the river)
On the wide surface of the river
Only sails leaving, no boats returning

嘣嘣嘣 嘣嘣嘣
嘣嘣嘣 嘣嘣嘣
归来的船 何时靠岸

(Sailor)归来的船 哪里靠岸
(Woman)归来的船 这里靠岸

Returning boats, when will it dock
Returning boats, where will it dock
Returning boats, here will it dock

“A Tune by the River” is a new take on a traditional Chinese folk song. The instrumentation and pentatonic melody evoke the folk tradition, with its image of ancient peoples by a river. The verses for the male and female lovers include a simple recurring motif —“na yi yo”— that makes the song easy to sing and to remember. The bass drum and gong carry the rhythms that the boatmen sing while rowing, and the marimba imitates the sound of bianzhong, or antique chimes. When the boatmen return at the end of the song, the tonality shifts, leaving an open end to this song of lost love.

Katherine Bergeron, female vocal, Butch Rovan, male vocal and chorus; Shiwei Li, marimba and gong; Ruicong Han, bass drum