Chasing Mirages

Fuzzy Memories

by on Oct.18, 2010, under Posts

I haven’t brought it up on the blog before, but those of you who know me may have heard me rave about the live/indie music scene in Beijing.  There are a number of venues that have live music performances on most nights, and a lot of artists worth seeing and following.

Recently, I went to a converted warehouse called Mako Live House and saw a performance by 旅行者 (lv xing zhe, or Traveler).   As you can see, it’s a big band – 10 people on stage that night.  There are a couple of modern instruments – guitar and bass – but most of the instruments are traditional ones from China’s minority groups in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.  Here’s a picture with a few different instruments:

One of the last songs they played really caught my ear.  I have terrible listening comprehension for both English and Chinese lyrics, but thanks to my friend’s skilled ear, we  were able to piece a lot of it together.  Result:  we embraced each other and cried our eyes out  (just kidding – but we’ve both listened to the song many times since that night).

Click on the play button to listen to the song:

旅行者 – 只有到那时

Here are the lyrics (my translation):

当最后一条河中毒的时候          (When the last river as been poisoned)
当最后一条鱼被捉住的时候        (When the last fish has been caught)
当最后一棵树被砍到的时候        (When the last tree has been logged)
当最后一片蓝天失去色彩的时候    (When the last expanse of blue sky loses its color)
当我们发现钱财不能吃的时候      (We'll discover that money can't be eaten)
只有到那时                     (But by that time)
美丽世界已经远走                (Our beautiful world will be long gone)

当最后一种鸟儿叫飞机的时候     (When the only birds in the sky are airplanes)
当最后一种动物只剩下人的时候   (When the only animals left are humans)
当最后一片草原变成荒原的时候   (When the last expanse of grassland becomes a wasteland)
当我们的后代问起他们的时候     (When our children ask us about these wonders)
当我们发现钱财不能吃的时候     (We'll discover that money can't be eaten)
只有到那时                    (But by that time)
美丽世界已经远走              (Our beautiful world will be long gone)

Here’s the amazing coincidence (keep in mind, that was the first time I’d heard any of Traveler’s songs):   earlier in the performance (less than an hour before they played the song), my mind had drifted to a topic that was really worrying me – what I was going to say about myself on this Chinese TV show on which I’d been chosen to appear.  I knew that I was going to talk about environmentalism, and I reached deep into the darkest gullies of my mind, trying to recall what had set me on the road to being such a weird tree-hugger long, long ago.  And it came to me.   A poster on a classroom wall showing a solemn Native American, with an old Native proverb concluding that we can’t eat money.  You can imagine how surprised I was when I realized what Traveler was singing!

That message really hit me hard back then, and it is equally powerful to me now, 20+ years later.  I searched online and found that the poster is still for sale.  Here’s the best low-quality image I could find:

Well, there you have it.  The poster that started it all.

Note:  If you like the song, or are otherwise interested in Traveler, check out their pages on Myspace and Douban.

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