Beauty of Cantopop

Growing up we listened to a lot of Cantonese music from the 70s-90s due to my parents refusing to listen to contemporary English music (except for oldies from the 60s, that was acceptable). A few years ago I confessed that I loved Sam Hui music to a friend. He told me I was an old fashion person because a lot Cantopop music has moved on with the rest of the world into dance and hip hop.

Every since China took back Hong Kong in 1997, there has been more demand for Mandarin products than Cantonese. However, in my opinion, Cantonese entertainment still reigns supreme as the writing styles in TV/movies are mature and always keep the audiences watching for the next plot twist. In China, the industry is still “new” compared to Hong Kong and maybe I’ll get addicted to something in Mandarin, but it hasn’t happened yet. Sadly there used to be over 300 films a year coming out of Hong Kong, and now there is only 30 as all the money is in China.

Regardless, an article in the South China Morning Post explains why Cantonese is still such a great language. (quote from article: “seng gau char siu ho gor seng nay”, which literally means “better to have given birth to a piece of barbecued pork than you”. )

chines barbecue pork
amazingribs.com Chinatown Char Siu

A lot of the music my dad liked to listen to ranged from very calm songs about waiting for someone (English lyrics to Danny Chan – 等Wait) or funny ones about the common man getting ripped off by the boss (English lyrics to Sam Hui – 半斤八兩 Half a catty, eight taels).

Lately I’ve been listening to this music again and it makes me cry because I remember sitting bored in the living room with the family while watching the horrible music videos of these songs on tv. A lot of Cantonese tv was family oriented and after dinner we would all sit down to watch tv and eat fruit. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to leave the house for life to start. Now I finally understand the longing and nostalgia of times gone past because people can’t be brought back from the dead.

Anyhow, I wanted to share  a few Cantopop songs via YouTube to those interested in trying out a new type of music. Other than the melodies being catchy, the lyrics are well written and usually the performers had great voices. There was less focus on “packaging” versus talent. Many of these legendary singers have died or retired. A few of them are still around and are still doing well. I don’t listen to much new Cantopop anymore unless they are title songs to tv series but these oldies are always welcomed in my home!

Sam Hui – 半斤八兩 Half a catty, eight taels (1976)English lyrics here, about the common man always getting the short end of the stick!

We are a bunch of working guys Working as slaves for money for life

Leon Lai – 愿你今夜提房距 Hope You Will Not Leave Tonight (1993)English lyrics here. This was the theme song to the TVB series The Legendary Ranger, science fiction series with aliens and a kick ass bodyguard (Faye Wong)! Leon was my fav of the Four Heavenly Kings!

Hoping you will not leave tonight.
But you have disappeared in such a hurry
to live a life in another world to be with someone else.

Hacken Lee – 红日 Red Sun (1992)English translation here, a great song for any bad day!

the path of life so twisted and winding, I have walked it
when did you start to accompany me on this path, giving me encouragement?
like the red sun, this fire lights up the real me
walking together, we can climb a thousand mountains

Jenny Tseng & Roman Tam – 問誰領風騷 (1987) – couldn’t find English translation, this is the theme song to a Wushu superhero series in ancient China. They both have AMAZING voices!

Anita Mui – Stand By Me (1988) – couldn’t find English translation, this was a thank you song to her fans for standing by her for many years.

Leslie Cheung- 有心人 A Man of Purpose (1996)English Lyrics here. This was the theme song from the gender bending romance movie, Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man?

Wish I could have yet grown up Look for the one simply by instinct

Danny Chan – 等 Wait (1984)English lyrics here. A really sad and beautiful song about being depressed because a love left.

Wait
Lonesome till deep into the night
The night gradually becomes desolate
The night gradually becomes dusky
Don’t say that you’re the one choosing people
People can also choose you

Sam Hui – Heart of a Loafer (1976) – English translation here, a song that reminds you to be humble and don’t be overly anxious.

If life destines something for you, you will have it in the end
If life destines you never to have it, there is no point forcing it

 

 

 

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Conversing with The Freak Fandango Orchestra

tffo_logo

As I was preparing for my upcoming podcast series, “The Literary Elephant”, I went through hundreds of tracks on the Free Music Archive (FMA) looking for lead in and lead out music. Part of the issue was that I was open to all sorts of music and it was difficult to narrow down the choices to one or two upbeat, energetic tempo tracks.

But as soon as I heard the whimsical melodies of The Freak Fandango Orchestra, I knew that I would want to ask for permission to use their music. This band was formed in 2006 and they are from Barcelona (Spain).  To me, their music sounds like upbeat gypsy folk with a dark twist. One of their tracks I want to use, “Monkey Said” is about a conversation with a monkey who wants to be like humankind. Since 2007 they have been preforming many live concerts around Barcelona and played the New York Gypsy Festival 2011.

Their two EPs, “Love, Death And A Drunken Monkey” (2009) and “Tales Of A Dead Fish” (2011) are both distributed for free listening under Creative Commons License on Jamendo and FMA. They have been downloaded 540, 000 times! You’ll find yourself astonished by some of the melodies and wanting to dance along with them, as they are just so good.

FFO monkey

FFO fish

“We’ll Save the World!” is a new cd from this Balkan-punky Barcelona band and it is a crowd funding project on Verkami, a site similar to Kickstarter, but based in Barcelona. It is an all or nothing campaign and the time is set for 40 days of fundraising. The band has an awesome video for this project, so have a look and save the world with them!

The Freak Fandango Orchestra consists of seven musicians:
Armin – Trumpet & Voice
Xavi – Bass Guitar
David – Drums
Yuri The Blade – Guitar & Voice
Jordi – Violin
Noe – Accordion & Voice
Vitto – Saxophone

The Freak Fandango Orchestra was ok with me using their music for my podcast and was kind enough to let me do an interview with them as I was quite curious about this band and their fabulous music.

First, thank you for spending time answering this Q & A. Your music is fantastic! You definitely have me as a new fan! On FMA, The Freak Fandango Orchestra bio says it is a “multi-ethnic band from Barcelona (Spain).” Where is each band member’s background and how was the band created?

OK, maybe multi-ethnic is not really the best description of the band, but the band members are from all over Europe. Each person brought a little bit of their own culture and music taste to the band. There are people from Germany with East-European origins, from Switzerland, Italy and of course from different parts of Spain. We all met here in Barcelona. First it started as a jam session between friends and then more and more people joined us and we formed The Freak Fandango Orchestra.

I remember taking counterpoint music composing lessons and the teacher kept saying, “write what’s in your head!” Alas, I couldn’t do the translation from head to manuscript properly. Is it as simple as that? What kind of process is used to create the music? Or perhaps someone starts with a melody and people start giving ideas?

As a matter of fact 95% of the music is composed by the guitar player. He has the melodies in his head and then the band brings them to life. Normally he sings a melody and the violin player writes down the notes. Then we start all together with the arrangements; this is when we start to argue, fight and insult each other until it begins to sound good and we’re happy again. Sometimes it only takes a few hours until a song is finished and sometimes it takes forever. Also there are ideas that don’t work out and we have to bury them.

Two of the tracks – “Monkey Said” and “Requiem for a Fish” – what are the stories behind them?

Monkey Said, actually is a very old song. We played it already in the beginnings of the band. It got transformed several times. The actual version of this song, for example, is quite different from the version on our first record.

Requiem for A Fish was written only a few weeks before we went to the studio for our second CD. It started with an idea and it basically wrote itself. It was fun to play and so it got on the CD. Actually its by far our most popular song.

The artwork on your albums is colorful and delightful. Who is the artist?

Its our drummer who does all the artwork. He is a illustrator.

Many of your songs are in English, was it a group decision to do this? Do people already have individual projects in Spanish and wanted to reach a wider audience with English songs?

It just happened. Since most of the people are not originally from Spain it was like more natural to sing in English. Also it is easier to write a song with our music in English than in Spanish.

I admit I was surprised to find out that I could listen to your albums for free, but then again, with the internet being so open, even free music has tons of competition! On a practical note, I know making music, distributing, marketing, etc. costs money. Do you hope fans to support you via going to your concerts or purchasing merchandise? I guess I’m trying to understand the business model because for myself, as a writer, I really like to eat from time to time!

Oh, we do make some money with our music even if its free. For example we make money selling licenses for commercials, websites or stuff like that. We release under creative commons license Attribution-ShareAlike which means you can use our music for free but you have to respect some limitations. Now if someone wants to use it beyond these limitations they have to pay (or ask us nicely). This is where a big part of our money comes from. The biggest part, however, comes from our live-concerts. Putting our music out for free means we get a bigger audience and that means playing gigs gets easier.

Another part of our income is from donations. A lot of people who likes or music decides to pay for it, not because they have to, but because they want to. That’s quite cool.

And as you know, we started a crowd funding campaign to cover the costs for our third CD. As it turns out it is working really well!

Making money while being an artist is not easy. That’s why we all have other jobs to pay for rent and food. It would be nice to make a living out of music but on the other hand, this way we don’t have to obsess us too much about the money and can just make music.

What are the big dreams for this band? Does it include travelling to different cities in the world?

We’re quite happy the way that things are right now. I mean, you always want more, get more audience, be more famous, earn more money, that I think is quite human; but we are real good at the moment with our band. We have an audience when we play live, our music is listened to all over the world and we even got our new album financed by our fans and friends so there is not much left to ask. It would be nice though to play more international shows.

OK, one thing I really hope for is to be there in like 20 years, still playing music, still having fun and still having an audience who wants to listen to what we do. I guess that would really be a great thing.

Once again, thank you again for spending some time with me!

Readers, please have a look on Verkami for The Freak Fandango Orchestra’s We’ll Save the World cd project…I had to support them in saving the world, someone has to do this dirty job!   As mentioned in their video, their music will lift up our spirits from brainless shadows and broken spirits!

Making your own virtual mixed tape to share

While reading tons of articles on how to make a successful kickstarter, I stumbled across a link for 8tracks.  Someone mentioned that this was an awesome way to share your music with the world.  8tracks is a site where you can upload your music and make a virtual mixed tape to share with the world!  Or like in the old days, you can use it to woo a beloved.  Uploading and listening is free!

Be warned, I was extremely frustrated with the uploading process and it turns out you can only upload 2 composer tracks per mix.  Also, it will reject any tracks with no identification data, such as .wma rips from a cd.  Although I listen to tons of Final Fantasy background music, because they were by the same composer, I could only share 2 songs in my mix.

Overall, it was fun to make something to share, so I put together music I listened to when I wrote The Undead Sorceress.  It’s all instrumental music because it helps me with writing.  When I listen to songs with people singing I start typing what they’re singing instead, so it’s terrible for my writing process.  The tracks are from Ashes of Time (movie), Game of Thrones (tv), Rurouni Kenshin (anime) and Final Fantasy (game).

Some of the music (Rurouni Kenshin) is a bit tense because these tracks were inspirational for writing sword fighting scenes.  I remember making a cd for someone with these tracks for her family’s restaurant thinking it sounded very Asian, but she said her customers would choke on the food because the music was so nerve wracking.

Please have a listen, click on album cover below and enjoy!

(Instructions – click link and press “play arrow”!  http://8tracks.com/jfgarrard/undead-sorceress-mix)

lp mix

 

The Undead Sorceress Mix List (31 min)

1. Ashes of Time, Yo Yo Ma, Ashes of Time Redux (movie)
2. Main Title, Ramin Djawadi, Game of Thrones (tv)
3. Liberi Fatali, Nobuo Uematsu, Finaly Fantasy VIII (game)
4. Hitenmitsurugiryu – Amakakeruryu No Hirameki, Noriyuki Asakura, Rurouni Kenshin (anime)
5. The Will, Samurai X Rurouni Kenshin movie, Taku Iwasaki (anime)
6. The Last Wolf Suite – Shishio Makoto No Kumikyoku, Noriyuki Asakura, Rurouni Kenshin (anime)
7. Blue Fields, Shinko Ogata, Final Fantasy VIII (game)
8. In Memories: A Boy Meets the Man, Samurai X Rurouni Kenshin movie, Taku Iwasaki (anime)