Me-go Mix: Track 3

Posted by on Mar 20, 2008 in China, Mongolia, Post-Trip | 6 Comments

Me-go Mix: Track 3
“Ji Xiang San Bao (?????)” — Burenbayaer

To download using Windows “right click” and save to disk. Mac users, you know what to do.

If there’s one song that reminds me of my recent travels in China it’s Ji Xiang San Bao. During 2004’s Phase I, a handful of pop songs were constantly blasting from storefronts. There was no song that assaulted me at the same level during Phase II. In fact, the area of China I visited during Phase II seemed altogether quiet compared to Beijing and Xi’an.

Although Ji Xiang San Bao wasn’t blasted into my memory it quietly crept in. Walking down the street I would hear the chorus and on an overnight sleeper bus I was woken by a child’s voice squeaking out “mama?” I swear ever other man in Northwest China had this song as his phone’s ringtone. “That doesn’t sound so bad,” you might say, “ringtones usually only play for a few seconds.” That’s true in many places, but these men enjoyed the song so much they always let it play the entire length before answering their phone.


See that man on the bottom checking his phone? Imagine being on this bus for 12 hours with this ringtone going off at the highest volume every ten minutes.

Despite it’s popularity, I had trouble tracking down the title and musician for this song. It was given to me by a Korean tourist who had bought a Tibetan CD with the song in Lhasa. He insisted it was Tibetan but I knew it couldn’t be. I finally found out the name from an English traveler I met in Kyrgyzstan who’s now living in Beijing. It’s always nice to have friends around the world, thanks Gabriel!

During my research I discovered that the song initially gained popularity in 2005, spreading around the internet. Some sources call it a “traditional Mongolian ballad” but it’s origins are not clear. Burenbayaer may be from Inner Mongolia, a province of China. The version I’m giving you is sung in Mongolian but I suspect the versions I heard in China were recorded in Mandarin, like parts of the You Tube videos below.

This version starts out in Mongolian and then switches to Chinese (Mandarin) around 2:00.

This version starts in Chinese and then goes into Mongolian around 1:45. It also has small children dressed as sheep which is always entertaining.

6 Comments

  1. David
    March 20, 2008

    You’re right about there being both Mongolian and Mandarin versions, and that the Mongolian version came first. Depending on where and when you were you might have been in China, you could have heard either. In Xinjiang, it was the Mongolian version that I heard most often, I was surprised to hear a version done in Chinese.

    I asked Meenday about the lyrics once. You probably remember her… she’s the one we went with for the foot wash and massage that night out in Urumqi. She didn’t translate everything word-for-word, but said that it was something along the lines of:

    Child: “Mother, what is happiness? Mother, what is fortune?”
    Mother: “Having happiness and fortune is having a family together.”

    I’ll be back in Urumqi in about a month, so can provide a full translation, if you want.

  2. Megan
    March 20, 2008

    I can see how some of the male’s singing may be an effort to be like throat singing. They don’t look very Mongolian!

    Say hi to Meenday for me, she was really nice. If my readers are interested in a translation would be great but I won’t put her through it unless they request it.

    I got your postcard today, thanks! I love mail. I wish in was in Denmark with you now, it’s one of my favorite countries. I did some biking around an island called ?r? which was beautiful but I’m guessing the weather’s not fit for that sort of thing right now.

  3. Jeffrey
    March 20, 2008

    Hi Megan,so happy you are promoting something from China.The song was a smash hit back then.I can also provide a full translation if you want.

    BTW,I’m not here to nitpick,but I think you confused mainland China with Taiwan here.Although it was the KMT government that regonized Mongolia in 1945/1946, PRC had established diplomatic ties with Mongolia ever since 1949.

  4. Megan
    March 20, 2008

    Jeffrey,
    You’re right, I did confuse Taiwan… I didn’t realize that Taiwan was called “The Republic of China.” I’ve seen some maps recently where it looked like China was claiming Mongolia and parts of India so I made the leap. Maybe they were old or Taiwanese maps. I’m changing it in my post… thanks for correcting me, it’s not being nitpicky!

    If it’s easy and not too time consuming for you people might like a translation. I know David (above) won’t be able to do it while he’s on the road. Would you translate from the Chinese version? I think my mp3 is in Mongolian but I suspect that the lyrics are more or less the same.

    I know it was popular, but was it popular with young people (say 13-30 years)? All of the people I saw playing it were middle-aged men. I would think it wouldn’t be seen as being “cool” like S.H.E. was back in 2004.

  5. Jeffrey
    March 21, 2008

    Here is my sorry attempt at translating the Mandarin version of the song. I’ve no idea if the Mongolian version has the same lyrics.
    Yes, S.H.E is more popular among young people than any folk singers,although the young people may find this song pretty fresh at first.

    Baba?
    Yes?
    When the sun comes out,does the moon go home?
    Right!
    Where is the sun when the stars appear?
    On the sky?
    How come I just can’t find it?
    It has gone home!
    The Sun,the stars and the moon are one lucky family!

    Mama?
    Yes?
    The leaves has turned green,when do they blossom?
    Wait until summer comes!
    Can I pick the fruits when the flowers are red?
    Wait until fall comes!
    Can the seeds sprout when put in the soil?
    It will grow up!
    Flowers,leaves and seeds are one lucky family!

    Baby!
    Yes?
    Baba shines upon mama like the sun!
    Then how about mama?
    Mama is like the leaf that supports the red flower!
    How about me?
    You are like the seed that’s sprouting!
    We three are one lucky lucky family!

  6. Megan
    March 21, 2008

    Thanks for the translation Jeffrey!