Saturday, October 17, 2009

A very meaningful Ryukyuan folk song: Tinsagu nu Hana (Balsam Flowers)

I happened to hear this Ryukyuan folk song by chance, after following a YouTube link shared by a Facebook friend (you know how one song leads to another, right). The melody immediately caught my ear, and on further googling, the lyrics immediately captured my heart. Here it is, Tinsagu no Hana (Balsam Flowers), sung by Rimi Natsukawa:

Tinsagu nu hana by Rimi Natsukawa

Here are the lyrics translated into English (from here, here and here):

Just as my fingernails are painted with the pigment from the balsam flowers,
my heart is painted with the teachings of my parents.

Although the galaxies in the sky are countable,
the love and wisdom of my parents are not.

Just as the ships that run in the night are guided to safety by the polestar,
I am guided by the parents who birthed me and watch over me.

Just as there's no point in owning splendid jewelry if you don't maintain it,
human beings who maintain their souls will live life wonderfully.

The wishes of he who lives sincerely always come true and he prospers.

You can do anything if you try, but you can't if you don't.

Wonderful, isnt' it? If you'd like to sing along, here are the lyrics in romanised syllables (adapted from here and here):

ti-.n-sa-gu-nu-ha-na-ya ci-mi-za-ci-ni-su-mi-ti,
u.-ya-nu-yu-si-gu-tu-ya ci-mu-ni-su-mi-ri;

ti-.n-nu-bu-ri-bu-si-ya yu-mi-ba-yu-ma-ri-si-ga,
u.-ya-nu-yu-si-gu-tu-ya yu-mi-ya-na-ra-.n;

yu-ru-ha-ra-su-fu-ni-ya ni-nu-fa-bu-si-mi-a.-ti,
wa-.n-na-ce-ru-u.-ya-ya wa-.n-du-mi-a.-ti;

ta-ka-ra-da-ma-ya-ti-.n mi-ga-ka-ni-ba-sa-bi-su,
a.-sa-yu-ci-mu-mi-ga-ci u.-ci-yu-wa-ta-ra;

ma-ku-tu-su-ru-hi-tu-ya a.-tu-ya-i.-ci-ma-di-.n,
u.-mu-gu-tu-.n-ka-na-ti ci-yu-nu-sa-ka-i.,

na-si-ba-na-ni-gu-tu-.n na-i.-ru-ku-tu-ya-si-ga,
na-sa-nu-yu-i.-ka-ra-du na-ra-nu-sa-da-mi,
na-sa-nu-yu-i.-ka-ra-du na-ra-nu-sa-da-mi;

From Wikipedia here:
Tinsagu nu Hana (Okinawan てぃんさぐぬ花 "the Balsam Flowers") is sometimes spelled Tensagu nu Hana. Okinawan children will squeeze the sap from balsam flowers to stain their fingernails. The lyrics of the song are Confucian teachings. Of the six verses, the first three relate to filial piety, while the last three refer to how to respect one's body and one's goals.

Each verse has exactly the same number notes using language and meter devices that are solely Ryukyuan. The English translation tells of the content of the verses but fails to convey the precision and the beauty of the song.
Alas, the best translations are metempsychoses.

Malaysian Heart

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