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