I grew up not appreciating Cantonese pop (Canto pop). Lyrics were cheesy, melodies repetitive, MTVs tacky.
Not Beyond’s songs. They’re timeless. The content dreamy, encouraging, brave. 海闊天空 (Beyond the seas and skies) is a song played often during the protests. I’m filled with an equal rush of hope, sadness and energy when I hear it. If you grew up in Hong Kong, if you know this song, upon hearing 海闊天空 you too may uncontrollably mumble along.
This song means a lot to us Hong Kong people, especially the younger generation, because it talks about freedom. It’s about a guy apologising for loving to be free. He’s beat down by the world. The world dismisses him for being a dreamer; for believing he can reach the skies and the ends of the seas. But he’s not really apologising. Despite those that bring him down, he’ll continue to sing about freedom. In his heart, he will always be free.
To share the song with you, here’s an interpretive English translation**:
Today I watched the snow float by
As I wander to a place far away, carrying my soul, unbeating
In the wind and rain, I’m running
In the fog, I can’t tell the shadows apart
You and I
Separated by the seas and skies
Will we change?
How many times
Have I been ridiculed
Been brushed by cold shoulders
But I never gave up on the dream
In the blink of an eye
I’m overwhelmed by a feeling of loss
Somehow, unknowingly, the love in me had faded
Who understands me?
All my life, I’ve loved freedom
But I’m still afraid of falling
Anyone can give up a dream
One day, if
It’s just you and I
I won’t be afraid
I’ll always be free
I’ll sing as my heart desires
Wandering to the ends of the earth
＊今天我 寒夜裡看雪飄過 懷著冷卻了的心窩漂遠方 風雨裡追趕 霧裡分不清影蹤 天空海闊你與我 可會變〔誰沒在變〕 多少次 迎著冷眼與嘲笑 從沒有放棄過心中的理想 一剎那恍惚 若有所失的感覺 不知不覺已變淡 心裡愛〔誰明白我〕 ＃原諒我這一生不羈放縱愛自由 也會怕有一天會跌倒 背棄了理想 誰人都可以 哪會怕有一天只你共我 重唱 ＊,＃ 仍然自由自我 永遠高唱我歌 走遍千里 重唱 ＃ 背棄了理想 誰人都可以 哪會怕有一天只你共我 重唱 ＃ Source: http://lyrics.dreamnicky.com/singer4-1.html
** Interpretive translation means that the translation isn’t translated word for word, but I’ve tried to keep the meaning and essence as close to the original Cantonese lyrics as possible. For instance, the second sentence contains the Cantonese words “a soul that has cooled down” (冷卻了的心窩). I’ve translated such to a “soul” that is “unbeating”. Also, note that in the original music video there are typos in the Cantonese lyrics (e.g. it is “背棄”了理想, and not “被棄”). The corresponding English translation isn’t a bad effort, but some sentences are not correctly translated. I think mine is a tad better 🙂
I still chose this video over other versions because the black and white images and the choice of imagery best represent the song.
Linguistic note: Cantonese is a language that has 9 tones. Given the precision in which words have to be pronounced, both in sound and tone, in order to convey the correct meaning, lyrical creation is much harder than say, English lyrics. I speak from personal experience – if given the same melody, it is much faster and easier to write lyrics in English than in Cantonese. There are more options in the English vocabulary for every musical note, but there are limited words that work for the same note in Cantonese. That musical note may not match the ‘tone’ of that specific word, and if forcefully sung, the word’s meaning will change, if it even has any meaning at all.