Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Translation of the Lyrics

Many viewers of the Lao Lai Qiao Gaga video have requested a translation of the lyrics. They're a little disappointing on the face of it - old people hoping their busy kids will take notice of them for a change - but they're an interesting insight into the culture nonetheless.

Cultures have their own personalities, and to me, the personality of the Chinese culture is one that above all else shoulders burdens. Watching Chinese movies makes this abundantly clear: some of the most ludicrous Chinese comedies (for example, the masterful buffoonery of Stephen Chow) carry some weighty overtones of suffering-to-the-core; I've always come out of Chinese movies convinced that Chinese people believe deep down that the essence of being Chinese is that it's hard to be Chinese. 

This may be a subtlety that I personally believe pervades the art of modern China, but Lao Lai Qiao Gaga is certainly a case in point. Like a gloomy cloud hanging above this spontaneously joyous piece of harmless fun, the message of the video contains the distinct flavour of loneliness. But it's not a hopeless loneliness.

"Lao Lai Qiao" is a phrase that refers to old people dressing themselves up (I'm not certain if it also carries the  connotation of "mutton dressed as lamb" - correct me if I'm wrong), so the title refers to the elderly performers sprucing themselves up as Gagas - not, I'm sure, that they're thinking of classic Gaga in meat garments or otherwise odd costumes, but Gaga as an icon of modernity and youth that they hope their children can relate to. It's also a play on the term Gaga, which in the local Hunanese dialect means "Grandma".

The song is primarily in standard Chinese Mandarin with some dialectical expressions and phrases thrown in.

My Mandarin is OK, but I know nothing about Hunanese - improvements to my humble, flawed translation are welcome!

LAO LAI QIAO GAGA - "Old Folks Going Gaga"

Oh, oh oh.... beloved son...
Oh, oh, oh... 'go Gaga' & perform a song...

Lalala... 'go Gaga'
We're performing, don't [pass it off as unimportant] (? Hunanese)

Your working days are too many, you hardly ever come home
At the other end of the phone, you're always busy with no end in sight
Busy with no end
Busy, busy, busy without end.

Your old folks pass their days learning and finding ways to amuse themselves
Cut back on the little details, but HOLD on to those grand occasions
Have to HOLD on,
Hold, hold, hold, have to HOLD on.

Beloved son, watch the singing on TV
Your father and mother didn't make any mistakes, did they?

Tonight, HOLD on as you see Mum & Dad within a second GO GAGA!

If you're satisfied, please stand up and applaud
Don't make us too nervous
If you're happy, sing along with us
Give us our moment on stage (?)

Lalala... 'go Gaga'
We're performing, don't [pass it off as unimportant] (? Hunanese)

Hey, hey! The joy of being OLD!
'Gaga' can show you something: I'm so happy!


  1. Thank you so much for this! I was so curious about what they were singing, whether it was the Bad Romance lyrics (which would have been absurd!). This makes so much more sense!

  2. This is waaay off from my country's culture, so I'm actually pleased to learn how the Chinese think - definitely different from Serbs.