Kleinkunst (English translation)

Proofreading requested
English translationEnglish


This right here isn't life, it's just the start of the show
For Geordie Dulcimer1, Melody Mandy and Piano Joe
The songs aren't theirs, but they'll still sing 'em for us
This (this) is (is) showbiz (showbiz)
They're not sophisticated and that's why they're not in vogue
They mash-up Johnny Cash with ABBA songs and Country Roads
But their crowds all fall in love with them in a matter of seconds
This (this) is (is) showbiz (showbiz)2
Mandy's name's Maria
'Cause that's what her ma was called
That's why since she was little she's always just been Maria 2
But she wants to be one-of-a-kind, like Nicky and Michelle
Not the girl from some nowheresville at the end of the world
She's baked bread at her father's business since she turned 16
And at night she doesn't sleep - nah, she sings karaoke
In her room there's pictures of all of her idols
Their smiles across her walls, their styles across her wardrobe
Ripped red jeans with butterflies, a lilac sequin shirt3
Feather boas, leather boots, all she was missing now was the band
Maria doesn't want to go back to that town where everyone knows her
She'd be embarrassed if they found out what her life's dream is
So she picks herself up, 'cause she not going to take it any longer
And the next day she goes and puts a notice up in the paper
Right as she was thinking no one would call4, her phone rang
And for the very first time she got to say:
"This is Melody Mandy..."
This right here isn't life, it's just the start of the show
For Geordie Dulcimer, Melody Mandy and Piano Joe
The songs aren't theirs, but they'll still sing 'em for us
This (this) is (is) showbiz (showbiz)
They're not sophisticated and that's why they're not in vogue
They mash-up Johnny Cash with ABBA songs and Country Roads
But their crowds all fall in love with them in a matter of seconds
This (this) is (is) showbiz (showbiz)
George's father, after four daughters, had lost all hope for a son
His dad thanked God, so he named him after his patron saint
Those kinds of heroic deeds were never more than a name for him
So years later he got a tattoo of a dragon on his arm5
He drives the biggest truck down at the volunteer fire station
And ever since Johannes left, he hasn't had any friends
What George would like most of all is to make it big
Like Alice Cooper, or Axel Rose from Guns 'N Roses
A rockstar who shreds guitar, who groupies throw themselves at
But how's he meant to get the chicks: George only plays the dulcimer6
He does so better than the rest of the village, for free every Sunday morning
His crowd is old - only those who've died don't still show up
One day at the station he was reading the paper and saw this:
M. from W. is ready to share in the love of music!
So he dialed her number and she picked up right away
He said: "Melody Mandy, this here is Geordie Dulcimer!"
This right here isn't life, it's just the start of the show
For Geordie Dulcimer, Melody Mandy and Piano Joe
The songs aren't theirs, but they'll still sing 'em for us
This (this) is (is) showbiz (showbiz)
They're not sophisticated and that's why they're not in vogue
They mash-up Johnny Cash with ABBA songs and Country Roads
But their crowds all fall in love with them in a matter of seconds
This (this) is (is) showbiz (showbiz)
Johannes lives in a city that he simply can't stand
And he wouldn't be there, if he hadn't felt sorry for his mother
He had other plans, ever since the day he picked up piano
He would've loved to be like Udo Jürgens or Richard Kleidermann7
But he's supposed to have it better than that, 'cause he's capable of so much more8
So now he's here, studying to be a teacher of German and sports
In the evening he sits in his room in this gray, drab city
And wears away at the white keys of his keyboard with his fingers9
He hopes so desperately that someone will recognize his talent
Everybody in this city plays in some sort of band
But they all just want guitar, drums or bass
For the pianist, this city just doesn't have a place for you
He'd come to terms with that, until the next day the mail arrived
The sender's name was George, who still lived at home10
On the letter were four little words: "Now begins the show!"
For Geordie Dulcimer, Melody Mandy and Piano Joe
  • 1. Ein Hackbrett (hacking board) is either a chopping board or a hammered dulcimer - it seems obvious which is meant here. Then, Schorsch is apparently a southern (Bavarian/Austrian) way of saying the name Georg. I think the idea is that it would be like having a character named William who goes by 'Washtub Billy'; you're meant to think: 'He's a country bumpkin who plays a yokel instrument most people wouldn't even know exists, but he's still a real charmer.'
  • 2. The word Kleinkunst seems to describe small, cabaret-style variety shows. 'Showbiz' isn't an exact equivalent, but it's the first term that came to mind for me listening to the song. The wiki page backs up my mental association with the phrase: "By the latter part of the (20th) century, (showbiz) had acquired a slightly arcane quality associated with the era of variety (shows)...":
  • 3. The lyrics here say Pajettenhemd, but the "proper"/French spelling is Pailletten (sequins). 'Pajetten' is likely just the Germanized spelling of it so that it's clear how you actually say it.
  • 4. I think this lyric is actually '.../das wär's/ dann auch' ('I guess that's it then; the dream is over' - from "das war's" = that's it; that's all).
  • 5.
  • 6. There seems to be some wordplay going on here, because the word "Brett" apparently also means an "axe" (an electric guitar, particularly in the context of rock music):
  • 7. Two famous piano players, although it's apparently spelt "Richard Clayderman" and not "Kleidermann".
  • 8. 'Der Bub' would seem to suggest this part is more like "Mother's little boy is meant to have it better in life", but what I've put already takes up too much space.
  • 9. 'Abwetzen' is a weird verb to use here. I guess the idea is that instead of 'tickling the ivories', he's just wearing them down with his fingers for no purpose - in utter futility, in fact - since he believes he's never going to make it as a star pianist. He's not making music, he's "grinding the keys into dust". Also, 'Keyboardtasten" suggests it's an electronic keyboard and not an actual piano, just to rub salt in the wound.
  • 10. I'm not sure what's meant here about Georg. Is it saying that Johannes is envious because Georg is 'still back at home (instead of this city)', or is it saying that Georg 'still lives at home because he's a homebody (so it's strange to receive mail from him)'?
thanked 1 time
Submitted by CanbergCanberg on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 13:51
Added in reply to request by Torheit01Torheit01
Last edited by CanbergCanberg on Sun, 27/09/2020 - 21:40
Author's comments:

Absolutely terrific song! It was a lot to translate and I've had to take some liberties in spots, but most of it came across quite well I think. I'm definitely still open to corrections, though.

If it's possible to change the German lyrics, there's inconsistent formatting for the chorus (some parts are written on one line in the first chorus, then on two in the second and third) and there's also another final chorus after the verse about Johannes which isn't included here in the written lyrics.

For those unfamiliar with the instrument, here's a couple examples of hammered dulcimer/Hackbrett "Musi":
1 - Formal performance:
2 - Folk performance:

Also, don't get the hammered dulcimer confused with the mountain dulcimer, they're very different instruments!
1 - News report about its history:
2 - Clear view of someone playing a song on one:

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The author of translation requested proofreading.
It means that he/she will be happy to receive corrections, suggestions etc about the translation.
If you are proficient in both languages of the language pair, you are welcome to leave your comments.


Drüsi HörbarDrüsi Hörbar    Thu, 24/09/2020 - 14:14

Great! You did a fine job, and your annotations are very informative.
One minor correction in stanza 2, line 8:
"Ihr Lächeln an der Wand, ihr Style an ihrer Garderobe" does not refer to Maria's smile and her own garments, but to her idols' .
"Their smiles on her walls, their styles at her wardrobe..."

CanbergCanberg    Thu, 24/09/2020 - 14:51

Thank you kindly!

Okay, that makes more sense than what I thought it meant. Though, if that's the case then shouldn't it be "Ihre Lächeln" / "ihre Styles"? I'm not wrong in thinking that "Ihr Lächeln" /could/ also be interpreted as "her smile", right?

Drüsi HörbarDrüsi Hörbar    Thu, 24/09/2020 - 15:40

In German it is not necessary to use the plural forms here, apart from this there is no plural for "Lächeln".
But you are right - based on the German words, "ihr Lächeln" and "ihr Style" might also be translated as "her smile" and "her style", if one does not consider the context.
B.t.w. the word "Style" in the German lyrics is not a plural, but is borrowed from the English word "style" and thus pronounced in English in this song.

CanbergCanberg    Thu, 24/09/2020 - 17:13

Well, wait, I think there's some confusion here. My focus wasn't in asking about the nouns, I was asking about the pronouns:

Es ist ein Lächeln, und viele Lächeln - the same as one deer, many deer in English. Right, that's all fine.

However, if you're saying the lyric means "Their smiles", then why isn't it "Ihr/e/ Lächeln" to reflect that? Is it because it's okay to "drop" the "e" while still having it mean "their smiles (plural)"? Or is it some other reason?

It's not that I'm not considering the context, it's that this doesn't seem so straightforward to me as a non-native speaker. Having the previous line mention "her idols (plural)" but then say "their (singular) smile" doesn't seem to make sense.

Drüsi HörbarDrüsi Hörbar    Thu, 24/09/2020 - 20:46

Sorry, I am not a teacher of German language, so maybe I am not really able to explain the underlying grammar. I'll try nevertheless.
"Das Lächeln" is a nouned verb, and nouned verbs in German are "singularetanta", that means, there is no plural. Here are a few examples:
gehen => das Gehen
sitzen => das Sitzen
küssen => das Küssen
schlafen => das Schlafen .....
For all of these nouns a plural does not exist, and you could extend the list endlessly - just take the infinitive form of a verb, add "das" or a possessive pronoun and capitalize the first letter of the verb. As a result you get a noun that expresses the act of executing the underlying verb.
It is not the same case as singular "deer" or "fish" with identical plural forms. If there is no plural form of nouned verbs, there is no plural form of the prefixed definite article or the pronoun.
I think part of the confusion is based on the fact, that the German "ihr" can mean "her" as well as "their" in English.

Confusion completed? 😁👍

CanbergCanberg    Thu, 24/09/2020 - 22:06

Oh, this has me perturbed! I was living in a happy little bubble, man, why'd you have to go and tell me about "singulare tantum"? Tongue smile

Let's see:
"Going" isn't really used in English, except for the very common phrase "the coming and going" / "the comings and goings" of people
One act of sitting, many acts of sitting - this is the same
You'd generally say "an act of kissing" too, but I could imagine a conversation like "Did he give you a good kissing, did he?" - "Well, it wasn't just one kissing, oh no, it was many kissings throughout the night! We couldn't keep our hands off each other!"
One sleep, many sleeps ("Only 5 more sleeps till Christmas!")

German seems (actually, it now feels) an awful lot more restrictive in this respect. It's disquieting.

So yeah, the confusion is partly because "ihr" means both of those things, but now I realize what the real problem here is: "Ihr Lächeln" doesn't mean "Their smile" /or/ "Their smiles", it means... "Their smiling"! "Their smiling on the wall"! Ugh, it feels so wrong! It's wrong!

Confusion ended, but... perturbance begun? I'm gonna need time to process this.

Drüsi HörbarDrüsi Hörbar    Thu, 24/09/2020 - 20:59

Of course in English it is correct to translate "ihr (plural) Lächeln" into "their (plural) smiles" and "ihren Style" into "their styles".

Drüsi HörbarDrüsi Hörbar    Thu, 24/09/2020 - 23:12

That's it! You got the point, why didn't I find this analogy? "Ihr Lächeln" = "Their smiling"! The nouning (is there such an expression?) of a verb!
I am so glad that I was able to help clarify that problem a bit 😉

CanbergCanberg    Fri, 25/09/2020 - 10:00

Yes, the nounings of verbs, indeed... Regular smile
Thanks for your help though, really. I'll have a think and then come back and change that part of the translation soon.

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