Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Mystery of Asadoya Yunta - 安里屋ユンタのミステリ

After becoming entranced by Okinawan folk singer Rimi Natsukawa's version of Shima Uta, I was browsing more of her performances on YouTube and found the equally enchanting Asadoya Yunta.

The song is sung in the Okinawan dialect of Japanese, making some of the words and phrases difficult for me to understand. I tried Google for an English translation of the lyrics but netted no results. Still curious about the meaning, I decided to translate it myself. This time I attempted a Google search for a version of the lyrics translated from the Okinawan dialect into plain Japanese, and instead found a curious mystery.

There appear to be at least two versions of Asadoya Yunta floating around the internet and performed by singers in Japan. The first is the version sung by Rimi Natsukawa, and we shall begin with that.

Asadoya Yunta (Rimi Natsukawa)

This version of the song seems fairly modern. It is sung in a lighter Okinawan dialect. The vocabulary, accent, and grammar differ from everyday Japanese, but the song is reasonably understandable.

Lyrics:

Japanese Lyrics

English Lyrics

サー君は野中の いばらの花か

(サーユイユイ)

暮れて帰れば やれほに引き止める

マタハーリヌ ツィンダラ カヌシャマヨ

マタハーリヌ ツィンダラ カヌシャマヨ

Are you a thorny flower of the fields?

(Saa yui yui)*

When the day darkens and I return home, you keep me

Matahaari nu tsindara kanu shama yo

Matahaari nu tsindara kanu shama yo**

サー嬉し恥かし 浮名をたてて

(サーユイユイ)

主は白百合 やれほにままならぬ

マタハーリヌ ツィンダラ カヌシャマヨ

マタハーリヌ ツィンダラ カヌシャマヨ

Happy, shy, with a light reputation

(Saa yui yui)*

The white lily will not match you

Matahaari nu tsindara kanu shama yo

Matahaari nu tsindara kanu shama yo**

サー田草取るなら 十六夜月

(サーユイユイ)

二人で気がねも やれほに水入らず

マタハーリヌ ツィンダラ カヌシャマヨ

マタハーリヌ ツィンダラ カヌシャマヨ

The arrowhead harvest is on the 16th day of the moon

(Saa yui yui)*

We will be alone with our feelings

Matahaari nu tsindara kanu shama yo

Matahaari nu tsindara kanu shama yo**

サー染めてあげましょう 紺地の小袖

(サーユイユイ)

掛けておくれよ 情のたすき

マタハーリヌ ツィンダラ カヌシャマヨ

マタハーリヌ ツィンダラ カヌシャマヨ

Let us dye the blue silk garments
(Saa, yui yui)*
Please bind the chords of your passion
Matahaari nu tsindara kanushama yo
Matahaari nu tsindara kanushama yo**

*(Saa, yui yui) is simply a melodic phrase which is said to have no meaning, much like singing "lalala" in English.

**Matahaari nu tsindara kanushamayo is a very mysterious phrase. It seemed that a lot of natives of Okinawa believed these words to be from a dialect of Taketomi Island where the song was written. Those who asked their aging Okinawan parents and grandparents were told it meant something like "Such a lovely girl." However, the fellow at the website above wrote that the sentence was actually in Malay, a language spoken in Indonesia. Unsure if I could take his claims for granted, I looked it up myself. You can see the truth at the following links.

MATAHARI - (sun)
MU - (your)
CINTARA - (to love)
KAMI - (we)
SAMA-YO (equally)

The phrase can be interpreted as "Your sun loves us equally." How interesting to find the translation of 300-year-old lyrics so easily. A look at Wikipedia lists Austronesia as a trading partner in Okinawa's history, a group of peoples and languages in which Malay is included, which may explain the way the language found its way into the song.

Asadoya Yunta (Traditional)

The language used in this version is far more antiquated and difficult to understand. The only video I could find to match with the following lyrics is here, where the computer voice sings a verse from Rimi Natsukawa's version followed by the equivalent verse in the (presumably) more traditional version below.

Original lyrics & plain Japanese translation found at this page.

Japanese Lyrics

English Lyrics

サー 安里屋ぬ くやまにやぅ 
サーユイユイ
あん美らさ 生りばしやぅ
マタハーリヌ ツィンダラ カヌシャマヨ

Kuyama Asadoya
(Saa, yui yui)*
She was born so lovely
Matahaari nu tsindara kanushamayo**
サー 幼しゃから 美り生りばしい 
サーユイユイ
小ゆさから 白さ産でぃばしい
マタハーリヌ ツィンダラ カヌシャマヨ

Born lovely, since youth
(Saa, yui yui)*
Born pale, since she was small
Matahaari nu tsindara kanushamayo**

サー 目差主ぬ 乞ようたらやぅ 
サーユイユイ
当親ぬ 望みよたやぅ
マタハーリヌ ツィンダラ カヌシャマヨ

Mizasuishuu's request
(Saa, yui yui)*
Her parents' hope
Matahaari nu tsindara kanushamayo**
サー 目差主や 我な否やぅ 
サーユイユイ
当親や くり嫌やぅ
マタハーリヌ ツィンダラ カヌシャマヨ

I say no to Mizasuishuu
(Saa, yui yui)*
I hate my parents
Matahaari nu tsindara kanushamayo**


*(Saa, yui yui) is simply a melodic phrase which is said to have no meaning, much like singing "lalala" in English.

**Matahaari nu tsindara kanushamayo is a very mysterious phrase. It seemed that a lot of natives of Okinawa believed these words to be from a dialect of Taketomi Island where the song was written. Those who asked their aging Okinawan parents and grandparents were told it meant something like "Such a lovely girl." However, the fellow at the website above wrote that the sentence was actually in Malay, a language spoken in Indonesia. Unsure if I could take his claims for granted, I looked it up myself. You can see the truth at the following links.

MATAHARI - (sun)
MU - (your)
CINTARA - (to love)
KAMI - (we)
SAMA-YO (equally)

The phrase can be interpreted as "Your sun loves us equally." How interesting to find the translation of 300-year-old lyrics so easily. A look at Wikipedia lists Austronesia as a trading partner in Okinawa's history, a group of peoples and languages in which Malay is included, which may explain the way the language found its way into the song.

4 comments:

My Simple Blog :) April 2, 2009 at 10:48 AM  

Dear GlitterBerri,
Allow me to show my appreciation for your taking time writing about the song. I am Indonesian, and I have been long interested in the song. I found your explanation about the phrases so interesting. Just would like to confirm, matahari truly means sun, kami=us, it's cinta, instead of cintara (at least in indonesian), that means love (n) or to love, sama =equal. Your elaboration about the possible story of its origin, that derives from malay (or indonesian,as we call this slightly different language), is no less interesting. In fact, a group of Okinawan musiciann once came to Jakarta told me that they believe that reason why some melodies and words of Okinawan folksongs sound like Javanese, is due to the trade relation both had in 15 centuries or so. Of course, your elaboration could give a reason too, and so far I don't know yet which one is right, but it doesn't really matter, though. :)If you would like to share any other of your nice thoughts, I'd be happy if you write me to tupolev16@yahoo.com. Thanks again. :)

Regards from Indonesia

My Simple Blog :) April 2, 2009 at 10:50 AM  

Dear GlitterBerri,
Allow me to show my appreciation for your taking time writing about the song. I am Indonesian, and I have been long interested in the song. I found your explanation about the phrases so interesting. Just would like to confirm, matahari truly means sun, kami=us, it's cinta, instead of cintara (at least in indonesian), that means love (n) or to love, sama =equal. Your elaboration about the possible story of its origin, that derives from malay (or indonesian,as we call this slightly different language), is no less interesting. In fact, a group of Okinawan musicians once came to Jakarta told me that they believe that reason why some melodies and words of Okinawan folksongs sound like Javanese(an ethnic in Indonesia), is due to the trade relation both had in 15 centuries or so. Of course, your elaboration could be possibly true too, maybe both are. It's truly nice to see someone having interest in this matter. :)If you would like to share any other of your nice thoughts, I'd be happy if you write me to tupolev16@yahoo.com. Thanks again. :)

Regards from Indonesia

Anonymous April 3, 2009 at 5:04 AM  

I think one possible interpretation of the word the sounds like "chindara" is actually "sinaran" which means "shine". The sentence may mean "the sun shine on you together".

darkitekt August 16, 2009 at 8:22 PM  

Thank you so much for writing thisw entry! I love the Asadoya Yunta, it indeed is one of my favorite Ryukyuan Min'yo! And now that you have uncovered the "Matahari" phrase as being Malay, its even more mysterious and interesting.

I am of Filipino descent so I know Tagalog and Bisaya, but I have also learnt Bahasa Indonesia as well (I like languages), and was intrigued as to why a Bahasa phrase was in the song, which is 300 years old(?.. wow!).

Indonesia (inparticular Java and Sunda) have had a big influence on the indigenous musics and cultures of all its Southeast Asian neighbors. Previously, I thought the northernmost place with direct Indonesian cultural and linguistic influences were the Philippines (due to active trade between the two during the Srivijayan and Majapahit eras before the colonial era). But looking at a map, and realising that Bahasa Melayu could reach as far north as the Yaeyama islands is interesting indeed! :)

About the phrase, could I ask whether it should be kami (us excl) or kamu (you plural)? So:
"Matahari mu cintara/sinaran kamu sama yo" would mean: "May your Sun shine upon us all (together)".

Thanks again for the wonderful post!

Content © 2006 - 2009 GlitterBerri except where otherwise stated. For more information or permission to repost contact berriblog@gmail.com.