A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my favourite music. One of the recording artists I mentioned was a Korean singer/songwriter/guitarist/ harmonica player named Kim Kwang Suk. He is famous for writing many great songs which he sang while playing guitar and harmonica too. Perhaps the most famous of these songs is called, in Korean, ‘Ireona’ which means ‘Get On Up,’ or perhaps just ‘Get Up’.
When I looked for a copy of that song on YouTube, I noticed that some of the clips had the lyrics printed below. Reading the words, I thought that they may have been translated accurately, but not by someone who is both a native speaker of English, and not by someone who enjoys playing with words. I decided to brush up the translation a bit. This then, below, is my interpretation of the translation of this important and famous song.
It now ‘scans’ a lot better in terms of being able to be matched with the song’s original rhythm, however, you may notice if you try singing these words along with the original recordings that the end of each verse seems to finish two lines too early! It is difficult to decide what to do about this issue. I will need to spend more time with the lyrics in Korean and try to figure out whether to rewrite the verses in English, or whether to write whole new lines that try to keep in the spirit of the song while maintaining the original length and ‘feel’ of each verse.
Update: Perhaps another solution could be merely to repeat the last two lines of each verse. This might be seen as preferable because it adds the least total amount of words not written directly by the original writer, and therefore is the least intrusive on the original content’s meaning, and thus most faithful to the original words.
Do you know the song and the lyrics? What is your advice? How would you translate the words in a way that can be sung comfortably in English? What do you think of my interpretation of the lyrics below? All polite and constructive feedback is welcome. Please leave a message in the comments section below.
* * * * * * *
It’s late in the middle of a dark, dark night.
I can’t see a single thing in front of me.
Where should I go? What should I do, where should I be?
Looking around I can’t see a single sight.
Life is like a river weed floating ever on,
Then rotting on some lost and peaceful beach.
Get on up, rise on up!
Let’s get into it, get on, and start again!
Get on up, rise on up!
Like the new sprout standing strong again in spring.
Talking round and round and on, we just can’t see the end.
With different ways and words and wills we’ll find our way,
But as we realize we all have to live and compromise.
The freshness finally starts to fade away to gray.
As the sun swings past it flits so fast, back and forth,
And the horizon’s rising sun soon starts again.
Chorus (and instrumental)
Taking all so easily eventually ends in pain,
And then the world will turn its big back on you.
I look around and then I find much to my surprise
That somehow it seems I’m still alive.
The more beautiful the flower, the faster it fades away.
And as the sun shines down, dew dries into the sky.
Chorus (and repeat to end)