Lý Qua Đèo

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Spacey.  That description fits me to a tee these days.  I haven’t had much luck getting any new posts out because I am in the middle of working on all the intricate details of my book.  Much apologies for having been MIA for these last few days.  I only wish my brain was better equipped to multi-task and deal with all the various situations thrown at me.

I won’t bore you with the details of my ongoing research and writing so I’ll share instead, another slice of my culture with you.  This song is called Lý Qua Đèo, Across the Mountain Pass.

hue girl

As a child, I grew up hearing this specific song played quite often in my home and I always wondered how my father could understand what the singer is saying because this song is just as foreign-sounding to me as it sounds to you.

The reason is that although seventy-five percent of the words are basic Vietnamese words which I could understand, the rest was composed of very regional and dialectic aboriginal vocabulary.

If I was asked to translate this song, I would have a tough time translating it because I cannot understand many of the words.

I do have the lyrics, however, and I can roughly translate them:

Chiều chiều dắt mẹ, dắt mẹ tà là đèo qua đèo, tà là đèo qua đèo                                                    
Chim kêu, chim kêu tình như bên nớ
Úy, óa, chi rứa, chi rứa
                                         

Ơi hỡi vượn trèo,                                                     
Vượn trèo tà là kia bên kia, tà là kia bên kia                
Ơi hỡi vượn trèo tà là kia bên kia                               

Ngày ngày mỗi tủi, mỗi tủi tà là già thêm già, tà là già thêm già
Công danh, công danh tình như chưa có
Úy, óa, chi rứa, chi rứa
Hỡi ơi nghiệp nhà,
nghiệp nhà tà là nên chưa nên, tà là nên chưa nên

Ơi hỡi nghiệp nhà tà là nên chưa nên

Từ Đoài, hướng vọng, hướng vọng tà là kiềng sang kiềng, tà là kiềng sang kiềng
Giang sơn, giang sơn tình như nơi đó
Úy, óa, chi rứa, chi rứa
Hỡi ơi mẹ hiền,
mẹ hiền tà là đây nơi đây, tà là đây nơi đây

Ơi hỡi mẹ hiền tà là đây nơi đây

Ngậm ngùi, ngắm nhạn, ngắm nhạn tà là trời nương trời, tà là trời nương trời
Tai nghe, tai nghe tình như chim hót
Úy, óa, chi rứa, chi rứa
Hỡi ơi miệng cười,
miệng cười tà là khan khô khan, tà là khan khô khan

Ơi hỡi miệng cười tà là khan khô khan, tà là khan khô khan…

Translation:

Evenings walking Mother across the mountain pass
the mountain pass, over the mountain pass
Birds calling, birds calling
Oh Hey!  What’s up?  What’s going on? 
Monkeys swing on the other side, the other side 
Monkeys swing, other side of the mountain pass

Day by day, I grow older and older, and more and more despondent
Achievements, achievements and love, looks like I have none 
Oh Hey!  What’s up?  What’s going on? 
Oh hey, my family calling (family work/business)
Family calling has not yet been built up
Oh hey, family calling has not yet been built up

I Ching divination is The Joyous Lake (I Ching hexagram #58), advises an altar to the ancestral homeland, a three-leg iron incense altar, a three-leg iron incense altar
Family calling and love is there 
Oh Hey!  What’s up?  What’s going on? 
Oh Hey, gentle Mother
Gentle Mother is here, is here
Oh hey, gentle Mother is here

With longing, watching the swallows against the sky, against the sky
Ears hear, ears hear, maybe birds sing
Oh Hey!  What’s up?  What’s going on? 
Oh hey, smiling lips
smiling lips, such a dry, dry smile,
such a dry, dry smile. 

The song itself is very simple.  This is because it is an ancient poem which has been in existence before written history.  Nobody knows who wrote it or when.  We just know that it exists within our cultural inheritance.

Enjoy.