It’s not often that you will find a song which will take your breath away. I discovered this one last year, and many listens later it hasn’t lost the tender beauty or the power it held over me the first time I heard it.
Unbelievingly, I first discovered Xǐ huan [喜欢] ‘Like’ as a free download. It’s by Zhāng Xuán [张悬], most commonly known as Deserts Xuan or Chang, a Taiwanese singer who is thought to be one of the leading voices of contemporary alternative Chinese music. It’s from her second album, released in 2007 and entitled, Qīn ài de…wǒ huán bù zhī dào [親愛的…我還不知道], ‘Dear…I Don’t Know Yet’.
A long-time independent musician and composer, Chang began writing songs barely into her teens. She was performing her own music on stage by the age of 16 and at 19, she had written over 100 pieces of music. She chose the stage name ‘Deserts’ because it was “mysterious and suggests something hanging in limbo”; like her personality.
Don’t you just love it when you accidentally stumble upon an amazingly beautiful song?
Holy Island is a track from the 2007 album Traces of Silver released by New Zealand legend Andrew White; a totally underrated artist in my opinion. Despite having worked with artists such as Karen Matheson of Cappercaille and Michael McGoldrick of the Afro Celt Sound System, White remains mostly unknown in the country in which he was born.
I first came across Andrew White’s music during a random search on youtube and bought this album on the strength of the first song I heard, the magical title track Traces of Silver. He has an arresting voice and wonderfully tender style of guitar playing, and there’s a refreshing sense of honesty and raw beauty in his lyrics, too.
“On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me
a partridge in a pear tree.”
So goes the first verse from one of England’s most well-known carols, the Twelve Days of Christmas. The twelve days of Christmas begin on St. Stephen’s Day (26th December) and continue until Twelfth Night; the evening of the 5th January and the night before Epiphany. Epiphany (6th January) celebrates the coming of the Magi and marks the end of the Christmas season, a tradition dating from medieval times.
You may be surprised to learn that the Twelve Days of Christmas was first written down in 1780. It was included in a children’s book named Mirth Without Mischief, and probably intended as a memory forfeit game to be played on Twelfth Night. The players would each recite a verse from memory and the first to make a mistake would be subject to a forfeit.
Today, rather than opinions or politics I would like to share a song.
The song, ‘Pi Dul Gi Ya, Nop I Nar A Ra’ (비둘기야 높이 날아라) or ‘White Dove, Fly High’ was written in North Korea in the 1990s by native songwriter Sin Un Ho (신운호) and composer Ri Jong Oh (리종오). It was chosen for the American band Casting Crowns to sing when they were invited to North Korea in 2007 to perform in the annual Spring Friendship Art Festival in the capital city of Pyongyang. They returned two years later to perform again, this time recording the song for their upcoming album (listen above).
I wanted to share this podcast from the Folklore Society which I discovered today.
It is a discussion on folklore between Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series (among others) and Dr. Jacqueline Simpson, one of the UK’s leading experts on folklore. The two have worked together for many years and even collaborated on The Folklore of the Discworld, which explores the use of myth and legend in Pratchett’s books.