Sing the folk songs of northern Shaanxi in English, will you listen to them?

"The flower in Shandandan is gorgeous …" The folk song "Shandandan is gorgeous" in northern Shaanxi has spread all over the country, but have you heard the English version?
"I want more people to like northern Shaanxi folk songs." Wen Shilong, 57, is wearing a red Tang suit and black-rimmed glasses. Although his temples are pale, his eyes are still bright. He has multiple identities: an English teacher in Yan ‘an Vocational and Technical College, a folk singer, and the "first person" who translated and sang folk songs from northern Shaanxi into English.
Wen Shilong interacts with foreign friends after singing folk songs in northern Shaanxi in English (Photo courtesy of Wen Shilong)
Wen Shilong was born in Zichang County, Yan ‘an City, Shaanxi Province. He loved both English and singing since he was a child. After graduating from college, he became an English teacher. After teaching, he did not let go of his love for folk songs in northern Shaanxi. In 2007, Wen Shilong was invited to Beijing to participate in a TV program and sang a song "Nothing is as good as our ravines" for the audience. After returning, Yan ‘an musician Cao Junmin gave him an "idea": to translate folk songs in northern Shaanxi into English to sing.

Wen Shilong sang the folk song "Tears Drop in the Glass" in English.
"I refused at first and felt that he was embarrassing me." Wen Shilong laughed, but he still wanted to take risks. "I have an English background, and singing folk songs is also my hobby. Why not try it?" Wen Shilong once sang folk songs to some foreign friends, but they could only appreciate the beauty of rhyme and could not feel the connotation of the songs. Therefore, it became Wen Shilong’s initial motivation to let foreign friends understand the folk songs in northern Shaanxi, and he began to secretly try to translate them.
However, the problems in the process came one after another. There are many rhetorical devices such as fu, bi and xing in the language of folk songs in northern Shaanxi, and there are many dialects and dialects, and there are so many musical techniques such as tune-throwing and falling notes that it is difficult to translate them in place and keep their original flavor, so that English lyrics can be sung with melody.
"This work is interdisciplinary, which requires both musical literacy and translation skills, as well as understanding the folk culture of northern Shaanxi, and must also be able to sing folk songs. If the translation is not catchy and easy to sing, it is meaningless. "
In order to retain the beauty of rhyme, form and artistic conception of folk songs in northern Shaanxi to the greatest extent, Wen Shilong used various translation methods such as literal translation, free translation, supplementary translation and omission translation, and even used new forms such as Rap to polish and audition repeatedly, striving to express the semantic context of the original song and express the language styles of dialect proverbs, overlapping words and lining words in lyrics.

Wen Shilong sings "Dongfanghong" in English
His wife Feng Tao was his first audience. Every time a song is translated, Wen Shilong always sings it to his wife first, so that she can give her advice and then he can modify it. In this way, Wen Shilong translated nearly 100 northern Shaanxi folk songs, including "Shandandan Blossoms in Red" and "Nanniwan".
Along the way, there are many voices of doubt. Some people say that the folk songs he translated are "four unlike", and the folk songs in northern Shaanxi should be sung in dialects. Wen Shilong was also depressed and discouraged, but he later figured it out. "I don’t want to change the folk songs in northern Shaanxi, but I want to let the folk songs in northern Shaanxi have one more window and one more channel for more people to accept and love."
"Behind the folk songs in northern Shaanxi is the spirit of northern Shaanxi. Growing up in this yellow land, the people in northern Shaanxi are not afraid of suffering, and they can have fun in suffering. They sing and travel in the sky, and through hard work, the bitter days will be better." In Wen Shilong’s eyes, this is the soul of folk songs in northern Shaanxi. In addition to translating folk songs in northern Shaanxi, he now tries to translate Henan Opera and some popular songs, and creates new folk songs such as Ode to the Gardener and Looking for the Footprints of Lu Yao, hoping that more China songs will be sung around the world.
"Whenever I sing a folk song, my heart is like a blossoming Dandan flower, which is bright." Wen Shilong raised his eyebrows slightly and said with a smile, his eyes were bright.
Reporter: Xin Yiru, Han Xiao
Editor: Chen Dongshu