Friday Song: Chen Li remains unextinguished, inextinguishable - SupChina

Friday Song: Chen Li remains unextinguished, inextinguishable

"If all people meet after death, / What's the charm of death?"

She has been called China’s “first artist of the folk world” (“民谣界第一位”), but it would be somewhat inaccurate to simply brand Chen Li 陈粒 in this way — or indeed, in any other. The intrigue of Chen Li lies in her uniqueness: her distinctive, expressive voice that is serene yet rough at the same time, and her rich lyrics that are infused with Chinese cultural references and idioms, marking her apart from her contemporaries in the music scene.

“Unextinguished” (不灭 bù miè) sees Chen Li tackle the subject of a breakup with powerful lyrical sophistication and in a voice that is rich with emotion. Particularly potent lines include: “我煎熬是谁一碗绕指缠绵的糖 (wǒ jiān’áo shì shéi yī wǎn rào zhǐ chánmián de táng) — My torment is a bowl of twisted, lingering sugar to someone else.” But give a listen to the other songs in her album  《如也》 (rú yě, As Well) to gain a better insight into the variety of the work that this graduate of Shanghai University of International Business and Economics has created. For example, in “易燃易爆炸” (yì rán yì bào zhà, Flammable and Explosive), you’ll hear a strong influence of rock and electronic music, which are the genres that inspired Chen Li to begin her music career.

Let’s return to “Unextinguished,” the song embedded above. Here are the lyrics, with our translation from the Chinese:

Lyrics

如果死后所有人与所有人相见,
If all people meet after death,
那么死亡还有什么魅力可言?
What’s the charm of death?
如果拒绝一条路和一条路重叠,
If you refuse two roads that overlap
那么相见才会值得认真说再见。
Then after meeting it’ll be worth saying a proper goodbye
缠绵…
Lingering…
翩跹…
Lively…
蔓延…
Spreading…

如果不想上半生和下半生分界,
If I don’t want to split the two halves of my life
那么同意你离开只是场戏言。
Then I’m just joking and lying when I agree to your departure.
如果选你和我与我和她的分别,
If I choose breaking up with you or her,
那么选择还有什么范畴可争辩。
Then what difference in scope is there in choice?
捏碎…
Crumble…
焚毁…
Burn…

Fly…

你揉皱是我一纸青山碧水的理想。
Your crumbling is my ideal scenery.
我煎熬是谁一碗绕指缠绵的糖。
My torment is a bowl of twisted, lingering sugar to someone else.
山河破碎 糖水焦黑
Shattered mountains and rivers, blackened and burnt syrup
你不会。
You will not.

如果不想上半生和下半生分界,
If I don’t want to split the two halves of my life
那么同意你离开只是场戏言。
Then I’m just joking and lying when I agree to your departure.
如果选你和我与我和她的分别,
If I choose breaking up with you or her,
那么选择还有什么范畴可争辩。
Then what difference in scope is there in choice?
捏碎…
Crumble…
焚毁…
Burn…

Fly…

你揉皱是我一纸青山碧水的理想。
Your crumbling is my ideal scenery.
我煎熬是谁一碗绕指缠绵的糖。
My torment is a bowl of twisted, lingering sugar to someone else.
山河破碎,糖水焦黑
Shattered mountains and rivers, blackened and burnt syrup
你不会。
You will not.
你谋划是你一场翻云覆雨的思量。
Your plan is tricky and inconsistent,
我痛饮是我半晌风平浪静的紧张。
Swigging is my longstanding, dead-calm nervousness.
云散雨干, 风逐浪打
The clouds have dispersed, the wind has dispersed and the waves beaten away
我绝对。
I am resolute.

如果死后所有人与所有人相见,
If all people meet after death,
那么死亡还有什么魅力可言?
What’s the charm of death?
如果拒绝一条路和一条路重叠,
If you refuse two roads that overlap
那么相见才会值得认真说再见。
Then after meeting it’ll be worth saying a proper goodbye
你去, 我等, 不灭。
You go, I’ll stay, unextinguished.


Friday Song is SupChina’s weekly sign-off. Let us know what you thought of the week that was in the comments below, or email [email protected]

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Jemima Barr

Jemima Barr hails from England but has lived in Hong Kong, Hangzhou, and (currently) Beijing. She is doing an internship at SupChina before she starts her undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge in Autumn 2018.

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