I was in San Francisco last week and wound up taking a walk one evening on Grant Street in Chinatown. I stepped into one of the stores and there was some music playing caught me by surprise: acoustic guitar, violin, and some kind of hand-struck drum in an arrangement that sounded like a lot of Western folk music, and a very soft, floating woman’s voice doing the vocals in what I assumed was Chinese. It was one of those odd moments where it felt like I had stumbled into the right spot at the right time to hear this music. I asked the woman behind the counter what was playing, and she handed me a CD entitled Silent Sky by a band called Haya.
I bought the CD and have been listening to it since I got home. Turns out the title track, the one I heard in the store, is up on YouTube:
Turns out the lead singer, Daiquing Tana, is not actually Chinese at all, but Mongolian. I’m not sure which language she’s signing in. The CD case includes a booklet with the lyrics translated somewhat precariously into Engish:
The sunrise and the moonset
In the flourish world
From the eternal
Your frame is melting in the setting sun
I sound a sad blessedness
Silent prayer for the soul of dedication to pacify
When everything returns to silence
I have no desire.
On the blowy grassland
There is my lover
Ah you wind blowing gently
and listening to his sadness songs
Ah you moon, could you lighten his way
Ah you fire, could you make him warm
The Mongolian thing got me wondering again about the purported connection between the Mongolians and the Huns. I have yet to come across a coherent explanation of the history, but from timelines like this seem to suggest that the modern-day Mongols and the Magyars had common ancestors in Siberia as far back as 500 B.C. and that much of the military and cultural history of China, Korea, Russia, India, the Middle East, and Central Europe has been influenced by the actions of Mongol and Hun warriors like Attila, Genghis Khan, and Kubla Khan.