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《麻雀衔竹枝》

This song was written in Chinese by Dr Liang Wern Fook. It was translated into English by Tina Sim.

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About Xinyao (新谣) – Our own songs

 

Xinyao (新谣) is unique to Singapore. The songs are composed by Singaporeans, originally performed by Singaporeans, and often about life in Singapore. Xinyao literally means ballads created by young Singaporeans, xīn () being the abbreviation for “Singapore” (新加坡) and yáo () meaning “song”.

Xinyao traces its origins to the late 1970s. Under the influence of the campus folk song movement (校园民歌) in Taiwan, many Chinese students in Singapore also began writing their own songs. Xinyao reached its peak in the eighties as more students began composing their own songs, formed their own xinyao groups, and organised performances. Some say that xinyao was the seedling that gave rise to the successful local popular music industry in the late 1990s, which produced megastars like Kit Chan, Tanya Chua, JJ Lin, and Sun Yan Zi.

As the songs were composed by students, many of whom had no formal musical training, the songs featured simple melodies and were usually sung by a group, accompanied only by a guitar.

I am grateful to Dr Liang Wern Fook for granting me permission to translate his songs. Dr Liang’s name is synonymous with the xinyao movement. Dr Liang started writing music in the 1980s when he was still a student. He has penned over 200 songs. For his contribution to the local music scene, Dr Liang was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Music in 2010, the highest award for the arts.

Dr Liang’s songs have a distinctive style. While most xinyao compositions sing of love and friendship, Dr Liang’s works encompass reflections about social and political issues in Singapore, and exude an abiding love for his country.

I have translated some of his classics. The songs have been translated to allow them to also be sung to the original tunes.

About 'Little Sparrow Found a Twig'

 

'Little Sparrow Found a Twig' was released in 1990 but remained banned from the local airwaves for 23 years. This was because the song lyrics contained a few lines in dialect, at a time when Mandarin was promoted as the mother tongue of all Singaporean Chinese and the speaking of dialects was frowned upon. On the night of 1st August 2013, to celebrate the unbanning of the song, Singapore’s three largest Chinese-language radio stations broadcast the song in full at the same time.

Little Sparrow Found A Twig
Original Composer and Author: Dr Liang Wern Fook
Original Publisher: Touch Music Publishing Pte Ltd
Translator: Tina Sim

麻雀衔竹枝
作词:梁文福
作曲:梁文福

We live here in Singapore
My Pa once lived on Cross Street
Nineteen forty-one a bomber flew past
Dropped a bomb on the street corner

We live here in Singapore
My Ma gave birth to me at Tekka
There were many pirate taxis
Yet Ma rode her bicycle to work

We live here in Singapore
I spent my childhood in Queenstown
Behind the one-room H-D-B flats
There was a small patch of trees
It was the playground for us kids

We live here in Singapore
My prim’ry school was in Xiao Po
Never studied so before exams
Ran to Waterloo temple
And prayed so hard A Mi Tuo Fo

We live here in Singapore
In the past we had so little
Even though we still don’t have that much
We treasure it more than others

We live here in Singapore
My cousin’s back from the US
Little sparrow found a twig
It’s always good to bring it back home

Little sparrow found a twig
Spies an auntie in the street
Hair done in a lovely bun
Stuck a red flower in it too

We live here in Singapore
I spent my childhood in Queenstown
Behind the one room H-D-B flats
There was a small patch of trees
It was the playground for us kids

We live here in Singapore
My prim’ry school was in Xiao Po
Never studied so before exams
Ran to Waterloo temple
And prayed so hard A Mi Tuo Fo

We live here in Singapore
In the past we had so little
Even though we still don’t have that much
We treasure it more than others

We live here in Singapore
My cousin came back from the US

Little sparrow found a twig
It’s always good to bring it back home

Sparrow found a twig
It’s always good to bring it back home

我们这里是新加坡
我阿爹系海山街住过
1941年轰炸机经过
一枚炸弹在街头降落

我们这里是新加坡
我阿妈系竹脚生我
虽然那时候霸王车很多
她却依然骑单车去工作

我们这里是新加坡
我的童年在女皇镇过
一房半厅的组屋背后
小小的林子里
曾经是孩子们的窝

我们这里是新加坡
我的小学从前在小坡
平时不读书考试之前
跑到四马路的庙前
说声哦阿弥陀佛

我们这里是新加坡
我们都曾一无所有过
现在拥有的不算什么
但是比别人珍惜得多
我们这里是新加坡
我表兄金山回来囉
小小麻雀衔竹枝
都系衔番屋企好得多

麻雀仔担竹枝
担上街头望阿姨
阿姨梳只玲珑髻

插朵红花伴髻围

我们这里是新加坡
我的童年在女皇镇过
一房半厅的组屋背后
小小的林子里
曾经是孩子们的窝

我们这里是新加坡
我的小学从前在小坡
平时不读书考试之前
跑到四马路的庙前
说声哦阿弥陀佛

我们这里是新加坡
我们都曾一无所有过
现在拥有的不算什么
但是比别人珍惜得多

我们这里是新加坡
我表兄金山回来囉
小小麻雀衔竹枝
都系衔番屋企好得多

麻雀仔担竹枝
都系衔番屋企好得多

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Dr Liang Wern Fook is is a writer, singer-composer and educator in Chinese literature and the Chinese language. A pioneer of xinyao, a genre of Mandarin songs that is unique to Singapore, Liang’s name is synonymous with the xinyao movement. He has over 200 songs and two Mandarin musicals to his name. He is currently a lecturer in the Chinese department of Nanyang Technological University.

Tina Sim has been variously writer, sub-editor and editor for a government body, a mainstream newspaper and a woman’s magazine. She currently writes for an academic institution: blogs, commentaries, social media, even greeting cards. She has translated for NUS Business School (Outside-In blog); SPH (a book about new immigrants, Faces and Crossroads); and the Asian Shakespeare Intercultural Archive (the play Orphan of the House of Zhao). She started her journey as a translator with the Select Centre’s Translators Lab, sharing its belief that “Singapore's multicultural nature and multilingual heritage are unique strengths that have yet to be fully tapped”.