Are songs with references your kind of music?

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Moderator of Romance Languages
<a href="/en/translator/carnivorouslamb" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1109697">phantasmagoria</a>
Joined: 31.03.2012
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In the past I've translated songs with a couple or a mountain of references, some of these references were so obscure that I had to consult others who had a better understanding of what I was looking for. I don't think you'd need to pick up on these things if you didn't know about them or the language, however; there's something quite indescribable when it suddenly "clicks" and you understand them. Here are some examples:

The traditional song "La Sandunga" accompanying a poem by Luis Martínez Hinojosa that depicts Zapotec culture and long history.

A Oaxacan tradition of "stealing the bride" that wouldn't make sense to outsiders (although I think I've heard of it outside of Oaxaca)

About the Aztec culture (and many Nahuatl terms) and the retelling of the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

A song about Zapotec wedding traditions

So share some of your translations or translations others have made that have taught you a thing or two. I personally love these songs because I'm not opposed to learning something new or if it encourages me to crack a book open to look up on events in history or figures of the past. I also like the hard work that comes with appreciating songs and giving them a well deserved translation. It bothers me sometimes when others take no consideration for the weight in the lyrics and disregard adding anything that might provide readers a better insight on the song.

Otter in disguise
<a href="/en/translator/rezz" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1307992">Rezz</a>
Joined: 19.09.2016


A while ago, while I was writing the draft for this one, I stumbled upon "寛一お宮", Two names I had never heard before and couldn't find in any dictionary. After a bit of digging I found out they were actually the main characters of a novel called Konjiki Yasha, "The Golden Demon". I still couldn't make sense of why they were included in the song so I decided to take a look at the book... And ended up reading it whole. It's SO GOOD. Seeing the way each character slowly spirals out of control and ends up becoming the exact opposite of what they stood for is really sad but at the same time made the reading even more interesting... The only thing I didn't like was that it ended in a cliffhanger. Because the author died before he could finish the novel. A real shame.

After reading the book I realized the feelings described in the song were very similar to those of the female protagonist's after she realized she messed up big time (no spoilers. Go read it. It's amazing), which helped me understand the song a lot better and made me realize I had been translating it from the wrong point of view.


I still haven't translated this one... Because I'm still trying to get all the references. Hope it still counts Teeth smile

It's one of those songs with super silly lyrics and a very catchy tune. The thing is, though, the songwriter is kind of a geek... So he littered the lyrics with several pop culture references and corny puns. Same as the video (the full version is even better, or worse, depending on how you look at it). Like I said before, I still don't get everything, but whenever I watch the video and understand a new joke I laugh out loud aside from being proud for making progress.

What a great idea for a thread, phantasmagoria Regular smile

Moderator of Romance Languages
<a href="/en/translator/carnivorouslamb" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1109697">phantasmagoria</a>
Joined: 31.03.2012

That first one sounds like an interesting read, I found a translation of the book online and I'll be adding it to my list of things to read.

It's always nice when a song is just a part of a bigger story, I know another user has made a collection of songs based on literature:

I have a couple of others songs I've stumbled upon, I just need to go back and find them.

<a href="/en/translator/sandring" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1263066">sandring</a>
Joined: 18.10.2015
Moderator and Scholar of a Dark Age
<a href="/en/translator/sciera" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1077079">Sciera</a>
Joined: 16.02.2011

Got quite a bunch of such translations in which I basically needed to do some exegesis to get the meaning through to the potential reader.
Many but not all of them are about esoteric matters.

I have started to tag such commented translations of mine as being commented, but haven't added that tag yet to older translations.
I would also add the comments to the lyrics themselves, but for one that means I would need to translate them into the language in question, and that takes time, and also, in some cases it's difficult to decide where objective commenting ends and my own interpretation starts.

Some examples (most are English to German, here are some of the few exceptions into English):

For some really hard cases I have started a collection a while ago:

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