Saturday, 26 January 2013

Songs from China

 Hello! Ni hao!

 As you may know I spent three weeks in Beijing over Christmas and the New Year as part of a project called Study China, which is managed by my university. I have a blog about all my adventures there, which I hope you will enjoy.

 However, I also wanted to write a post on this music blog about songs I encountered in China - songs from China and also from other parts of the world - which I now cannot listen to without amazing memories flooding back of those three weeks in Beijing.

 Firstly, I had a long journey to get there - three flights, which took me nearly a whole day. I travelled from Manchester to Amsterdam, which was a relatively short flight, then Amsterdam to Moscow. I then had a huge, eight-hour flight from Moscow to Beijing.

 I have trouble sleeping on planes - or on any kind of transport for that matter. I kept falling asleep then waking up and not knowing where I was and that wasn't very pleasant. One time I fell asleep and in waking up managed to spill my drink on myself.

 The bottom line is that it wasn't the most comfortable journey I've ever undertaken, but it was certainly an interesting experience, and it has made me feel more prepared for if I ever want to go to Australia or Canada or somewhere else that involves a really long flight.

 I tried to pass time by listening to some music, and there is one song that I listened to almost by proxy, as it came on my mp3 player after a song I liked and I couldn't be bothered to move past it, and I realised I liked this song more than I remembered. It is Desert Moon by Dennis DeYoung.

 My main criticism of this song in the past has been that it is cheesy - however, there are some occasions when cheesy music can actually make you feel better, and on this tiring flight, this song brought me some comfort. 

 My mp3 player was being odd and kept restarting it in the middle, so I became very well-accustomed to the first few bars of this song! (By the way, am I the only one who thinks the beginning of this song sounds very like that of "You're in Love" by Wilson Phillips?)

 It is inevitable that I will never be able to hear this song without remembering my voyage to China; sometimes you can preserve memories in a song better than just about anywhere else.

 When I finally got to China, I got a taxi to our apartments within Beijing Normal University, found my room, slept a lot, and gradually got used to my immediate surroundings - a few shops and a student canteen which has the best yoghurt drinks I've ever had.

 I arrived on Saturday, and on Monday we had our Opening Ceremony. This song was playing, which I really liked - Liekkas by Sofia Jannok.

 If you are wondering, as I was at first, what language this is, it appears to be Sami. I liked this song when I first heard it and it has grown on me even more as I have listened to it since getting home - maybe because of all the memories it brings back. Thank you to Sally for letting me know the name of this song ♥

 We settled into the routine of Mandarin language lessons in the morning, economics lectures some afternoons and activities such as calligraphy and tai chi in others. One afternoon when we were free we decided to go to the Silk Market, a big shopping centre/mall.

 A song that played on their sound system was Sitting Down Here by Lene Marlin.

 Another song I'd liked but not been passionate about, but hearing something familiar in such an unfamiliar place was somewhat reassuring, and I like this song a lot more now. I have also learnt through writing this that Lene Marlin is Norwegian; I had thought she was American.

 At the end of our first full week in Beijing, a group of us went to a karaoke bar, and we had a great night. Hai, one of the BNU student volunteers, looked after us well, so Hai, if you're reading this, xiexie ♥ (to the non-Mandarin speakers, that means thank you).

 There were memorable renditions of many songs, but one song was especially interesting for me as I had never heard it before and really liked it, and that was 1973 by James Blunt.

 I don't know who chose this for karaoke (everyone kind of sung along to everything rather than someone picking a song then singing it by themself), but whoever you are I am very grateful as you introduced me to a song that I now really love and which enters my head at odd times and reminds me of Beijing and that night at karaoke ♥

 Another song that featured at karaoke is L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. by Noah and the Whale.

 I had known and liked this song before Study China, but now I love it, and it has so many memories attached to it of good times in Beijing. It got properly stuck in my head for the rest of the trip and I kept absent-mindedly singing it... It's a brilliant song.

 We then had Christmas, which was wonderful, if a bit surreal. We went to a restaurant and then played pool, and it was a lovely night.

 Boxing night I went with some friends to a bar on campus called Laker's. The lads danced to Gangnam Style - about which I will talk more later on! - and another song that played was a Korean version of Maria by Blondie. 

 I was not keen on the Korean version - the key was changed which I felt affected the whole feel and dynamic of the song. However, it reminded me of how much I love the original, which I will share here.

 I talk more about this song in my blog post, "Four songs and a dragon" - feel free to check it out.

 I was ill for a few days, and listened to a lot of songs on my mp3 player while I lay in bed wishing I was well and could join in the cool excursions the others had planned to the Temple of Heaven and Tianjin.

 New Year's Eve came, and found us in Laker's, which was by now a favourite haunt of many of the group. 

 I spent some time there and then headed back to our apartments, where some of the others were watching a film - Miss Congeniality - so I joined them and enjoyed a really lovely night.

 In the next few days we climbed the Great Wall, went to a Korean restaurant, visited Olympic Park and the Bird's Nest and saw a Kung Fu show. 

 We finished our presentations for economics class, had one last meal out together, sat our mock HSK exam - I got 195 out of 200! - and then, suddenly, it was the Closing Ceremony. Time had flown so fast.

 Again, Liekkas was playing, which made for a nice full circle from the Opening Ceremony and the start of our adventure. We could reflect on all we'd achieved. Then each of the three Mandarin classes performed a song we had been practising. Here is each of our performances with the original song:

Beijing Huanying Ni

This is my group!

Dan Yuan Ren Chang Jiu

 There are various versions of this song, but the one above is by Chinese singer Faye Wong. The name she was born with, however, is Wang Fei, which is also the name of one of our brilliant Mandarin teachers!

Dui Mian De Nu Hai Kan Guo Lai

 After the formal ceremony, there was a lot of taking photos together, and then we set off for - where else? - Laker's! 

 We had a lovely last night, with lots of music and dancing, and two songs stuck out for me. 

 One was Lonely by Akon, which was played in the bar and which suited how I felt at the time - not that I was lonely; I was surrounded by friends. But it was the last night and I felt really sad that it was ending. I felt like my mixed feelings were reflected in the bittersweet song.

 The other song was, of course, Gangnam Style. Here is the original:

 Here is our, far superior, version.

 I have about four different Gangnam Styles recorded from our time in Beijing, and I think I will make a mash-up of them; should be fun!

 The journey home was a lot more comfortable than the journey out, I am pleased to say. I watched American Beauty on the aeroplane's entertainment system, except the end was cut off because the plane landed before I could finish. So I will have to finish that film sometime.

 Then I was home, sweet home and I slept for a long time. I have so many wonderful memories of my three weeks in Beijing, and would encourage anyone who is thinking of applying for Study China to go for it as it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience ♥

 Thanks for reading!

 Liz x

Songs: Desert Moon - Dennis DeYoung - 1984
Liekkas - Sofia Jannok - ????
Sitting Down Here - Lene Marlin - 1999
1973 - James Blunt - 2007
L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. - Noah and the Whale - 2011
Maria - Blondie - 1998/9
Beijing Huanying Ni - various artists - 2008
Dan Yuan Ren Chang Jiu - Faye Wong - ????
Dui Mian De Nu Hai Kan Guo Lai - Richie Ren - ????
Lonely - Akon - 2005
Gangnam Style - PSY - 2012

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