My Favourite Music #5: Pong Nan

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Pong Nan

Pong Nan is one of the foremost singer-songwriters in Hong Kong since the 2000s. He started his music career playing piano at major shopping centres in Hong Kong, and sending demos to recording companies. He got his breakthrough in 2001 when his music was adopted by Jacky Cheung, the most popular singer of the time. He then released his debut album in 2004.

Pong is probably better known as a prolific composer and lyricist, something pretty rare, as Cantopop lyrics is a difficult art to excel in and few people can write both good music and lyrics like Pong does.

In this blog, I'll again translate the lyrics of some of my favourite songs, as well as brief intro on few others.

Happy Prince

Happy Prince was his first song performed by himself. It was a melancholic song from the soundtrack of stage play of the same title, which was based on Oscar Wilde's children story.

快樂王子 Happy Prince

music and lyrics by Pong Nan

如果我很想快樂
If I want to be happy
我也許找個人祈求被愛
I may find someone and wish to be loved
或者我先要瞭解自己是誰
Or I need to know who I am first
才知道我需要什麼
Then to know what I need

王子滿身的鑽石
A prince with body full of diamonds
也要燕子陪伴慰解寂寞
Still need a swallow to accompany him to relieve his loneliness
若果連他都不懂得快樂
If even he doesn't know how to be happy
我更要自甘墮落
I ought to abandon myself

* 或者只需要那份單純的愛
Perhaps [I] just need that pure love
並非一身閃爍的金箔
Rather than a body of shimmering gold leaves
或者一首音樂 加一杯可樂
Or a song and a glass of cola
已夠我苦中作樂
Are enough for me to rejoice in suffering

連自己都不知我是好人一個
I don't even know that I'm a good person
接受加冕都不知道為了什麼
Been crowned but not knowing what for
他給的愛我又如何裝載
How can I load the love that he gave me?
那算不算教人太悲哀
Isn't that making people too sad?

Repeat *

王子也很想快樂
The prince also wants to be happy
靜待燕子結伴暢遊天國
Silently waiting for the swallow to travel to heaven together
若果人存在是為了互相傷害
If people exist for the sake of hurting each other
我的愛不如丟進大海
I'd rather throw away my love to the sea

The World is So Big

The World is So Big was a 2005 song on how many people's griefs were in fact very petty compared to the sufferings around the world. It sneered at those who were ignorant of what's going on in this big world.

This song also came with a duet version with Candy Lo.

世界這樣大 The World is So Big

music and lyrics by Pong Nan

誰人失戀傷心因此開始不重視性命
Who breaks up and heartbroken, so [he] starts wasting [his] lives
廢了一雙腿的他槍聲中都堅決踏前程
He who lost a pair of legs, resolutely steps forward in the sound of gunshots
然而你說你怕自己一個生活過份恬靜
But you say you are afraid to be alone by yourself and life is too quiet
流亡伊拉克的他多稀罕得到這份和平
He who fled Iraq, would really treasure this peacefulness

* 失戀真的一般所講恐怖嗎
Is breaking up really as scary as people say?
睜開雙眼看一看 許多東西更值得可怕
Open your eyes and have a look, there are many things more terrifying
哪怕各樣痛苦繼續捱
Even with all kinds of pain, keep on enduring
其實世事轉得這麼快
In fact, things in this world change so fast
原來世界這樣大
As it turns out, the world is so big

誰人得不到想得的東西不惜賣弄眼淚
Who can't get what they want and won't hesitate to frown with their tears
而窮鄉中的她一生只得膠拖鞋一對
In the poor village, she only has a pair of rubber slippers in her whole life
誰人爭東爭西大打出手之後犯了罪
Who vying for things, started a fight and then committed a crime
難如飢荒中的一雙夫妻分享骯髒的餅乾碎
Can't compare to the famished couple who share dirty biscuit crumbs

Repeat *

誰埋怨收不到一朿鮮花
Who complains about not getting a bunch of flowers
誰人收不到花不甘心嗎
Who feels discontented over not receiving flowers
遠處的她很想栽花
In faraway, she very much wants to plant flowers
乾旱中等一場大雨下
In drought waiting for a heavy rain
你會發現處境不算壞
You'll find that the situation isn't too bad
其實世事轉得這麼快
In fact, things change so fast
原來世界這樣大
As it turns out, the world is so big
世界這樣大
The world is so big

Lie-in

Lie-in was the first song from the second of his three part EPs in 2009. The project went through his life stages over the three EPs, of which the second was about his adolescence. This was in my opinion the best of the three. This song has many resonances for me (who doesn't love to lie in or who wasn't always angry with the world when they were young?)

賴床 Lie-in

music and lyrics by Pong Nan

越睡越是累 越累就越睡
The more [I] sleep, the more tired [I] am. The more tired [I] am, the more [I] sleep
雜務萬千堆 不知怎應對
There are tonnes of chores, don't know how to face them
攬枕攬緊些 窗簾別拉開
Hold the pillow tighter, don't open the curtains
恬靜世界裡 我自閉隱居
In a quiet world, I live in seclusion

無辦法 來面對 門外世界變幻與興衰
There is no way to face the changes and the rise and fall of the world outside the door
蒙著眼 沉下去 寧願再蘊藏被窩之中找允許
Close [my] eyes and sink, [I'd] rather hide under the quilt to seek acknowledgement
懶得起身落床去
Too lazy to get up and get out of bed
也許於這昏暗角落裡面 找得出興趣
Perhaps inside this dark corner, [I] can find [my] interest

* 如果需要意志才能下床
If it takes willpower to get out of bed
對鏡梳洗 看多看也會怯慌
Grooming in front of the mirror, looking at it can frighten [me]
寧願打個噴嚏然後賴床
[I] would rather sneeze and then lie in
無謂面對著世人的凶悍
It's pointless to face the fierceness of the world
誰講早我說晚安 關進這暗房
Who says good morning I say good night. Locked inside this dark room
躲進被竇更加心安
Hiding under the quilt makes [me] more at ease
如若鬧鐘一再搖晃
If the alarm bell keeps ringing
仍舊繼續來賴床 對現實投降
[I'd] continue to lie in, surrendering to reality

乏力又累贅 越活越受罪
Weak and drained, the more [I] live, the more [I] suffer
就活在被竇 賣力地躊躇
Just live under the quilt, diligently procrastinate
想起身邊的 鬧劇或怨對
Think of the farce or resentment around [me]
每日拚命追 心力都交瘁
Desperately chasing every day, body and mind are exhausted

無辦法 來面對 門外世界變幻與興衰
There is no way to face the changes and the rise and fall of the world outside the door
蒙著眼 沉下去 寧願再蘊藏被窩之中找允許
Close [my] eyes and sink, [I'd] rather hide under the quilt to seek acknowledgement
懶得起身落床去
Too lazy to get up and get out of bed
無奈又怕有日筋骨衰退
However, afraid that one day the muscles and bones will be weakened
我也會心虛
I will feel guilty too

Repeat *

躺於這和暖睡床 (叫世人把我遺忘)
Lie in this warm bed (let the world forget me)
不想對人再奢望 (漸忘掉屋外盛況)
Don’t want to have expectations on people (gradually forgetting the busy lives outside the house)
被窩之中躺呀躺 究竟怎麼不妥當
Lying under the quilt. After all what's wrong with it?
懶得起身觀看 今天境況 知道更不安
Too lazy to get up to watch today’s situation. Once [I] know, it’s more gruesome.

何必虛耗意志爬落睡床
Why waste [my] willpower to crawl out of bed
戴起盔甲去抵抗俗世眼光
Wear an armour to resist the worldly eyes
寧願打個噴嚏然後賴床
[I] would rather sneeze and then lie in
無謂面對著世人的凶悍
It's pointless to face the fierceness of the world
誰講早我說晚安 關進這暗房
Who says good morning I say good night. Locked inside this dark room
躲進被竇更加心安
Hiding under the quilt makes [me] more at ease
門縫在滲一線晨光
A ray of morning light is seeping through the door
仍舊繼續來賴床 將現實埋葬
[I'd] continue to lie in, burying the reality

Truant to the UK

Truant to the UK was the next track immediately followed Lie-in on the same EP. It followed on the disappointment and rage from adolescence with a story of him playing truant from school and flew to UK by himself. Although I would never have the courage to do such act, I do admire the idea and sympathise with many students under the Hong Kong education system.

逃學去英國 Truant to the UK

music and lyrics by Pong Nan

班房中呆坐發夢
Sitting in the classroom and daydreaming
耳朵靜聽著飛機升降的洶湧
The ears hear the turbulent from planes take-off and landing
啟德只離校舍三五分鐘
Kai Tak [Airport] is only 3 to 5 minutes away from the school building
難承受教育觀念是接納平庸
It's unbearable that the education idea is to accept mediocrity

黑板寫滿數字文字我看不清
The blackboard is full of numbers and text that I can't read clearly
思想偏卻浮現電台司令
But Radiohead appears in [my] mind
籌備趁午飯時填病假紙之後
Plan to fill out the sick note at lunch time
攜著護照機票 辭令沒說一聲
Then take [my] passport and air ticket without saying a word

把儲蓄花光
Spent all [my] savings
還是要遠走別去這一個地方
Then go far away and farewell this place
假如校訓一派荒唐
If the school motto is totally ridiculous
逃學遠飛走難去英國
Truant from school and fly away escape to the UK

走進龍城內兜圈
Walking around Kowloon City
誰想俯瞰著跑道為現實埋怨
Who wants to look over the runway and grumbles about reality
很想灑脫的走出這一圈
Really want to get out of this circle
煩悶或睏倦轟烈地一次了斷
Frustration or fatigue comes off vigorously at once

飾演不到卓越成就校際精英
Can't play the role of a school elite with outstanding achievements
只想參拜那些電台司令
Just want to pay homage to Radiohead
如若積蓄不夠多便買張單程
If not enough savings then buy a one-way ticket
留下校照手冊
Leave behind the school photo and handbook
來劃破我宿命
To break away from my fate

把儲蓄花光
Spent all [my] savings
然後靠托餐賺夠錢租個地方
Then wait on tables and earn enough money to rent a place
假如校訓一派荒唐
If the school motto is totally ridiculous
逃學遠飛走難去英國
Truant from school and fly away escape to the UK

遊蕩 縱有不安
Wandering, though with anxiety
仍期望 去破天荒
Still look forward to breaking ground
到遠方 誰人又可罰我留堂
In far away, who can punish me with detention
而沿岸 有好風光
And along the coast, there's good scenery
還是 滿佈骯髒
Or full of filth
總好過悶局裡發荒
It's better than being stuck in a stalemate

天涯沒有岸
The world has no shore
連上帝也都沒法子把我來綁
Not even God can tie me up
生存若好比已死亡
If living is like the dead
何用再去守候那天國
What's the use of waiting for the heaven?
情願豁出生命去流浪
Would rather risk [my] life to stray off

Note that the lyrics refer to the old Kai Tak Airport which was closed in 1998. It was infamous for being located in the middle of the city, and airplanes flew right above people's roofs when approaching the runway. Because there could be no high-rises near the airport, many schools were built nearby instead, which was totally stupid given the severe aircraft noise.

Airplanes approaching Kai Tak Airport near Kowloon City

Aura

Aura was released in 2009 upon his mother's death. It was an emotional elegy that really touched my heart.

靈光 Aura

music and lyrics by Pong Nan

這軀殼和肉身 總會難逃避必經的耗損
This body and flesh were unable to escape the inevitable wear and tear
愛是會超越短暫生存 並無一息間斷
Love will go beyond the short-lived existence without a break

無需 來為誰唏噓
No need to mourn for anyone
來讓晨光蒸發掉剩餘眼淚
Let the morning light evaporate the remaining tears
隨風去 都揮之不去
Let the wind blow, it won't go away
再不要靠遠近釐定散聚
Don't let distance determine whether we're together or apart

* 頭上一絲黑髮隨年漸白
The black hair on [her] head turned grey with age
懷內一顆心跳緩緩靜下
A heartbeat in [my] arms slowly quieted down
呼吸停頓 偏卻從未吹熄 熊熊地亮照的火把
The breathing stopped, but it never blew out the blazing torch

如若真的相信輪迴的話
If [we] really believe in reincarnation
還未急於觸碰霎眼煙花
There's no hurry to touch the instant fireworks
此刻離別 且看生命昇華
Parting at this moment, let's watch how life transforms into the sublime
耀眼得叫誰也跪下
Bright enough to make anyone kneel

即使挽留在手
Even if detained in hand
轉眼 如塵劃遍了整宇宙
In a blink of an eye, it's like dust cutting across the whole universe
美麗放心頭 永垂不朽
Beauty rests at heart and becomes immortal
哪用緊握佔有
No need to hold on tight to possess it

靈光 如遁形的光
Aura, like an invisible light
從未停止普照著大地蒼茫
Never ceases to illuminate the vast land
提醒我 放下我的悲愴
Reminds me to let go of my pathos
尚要繼續尋覓沿途風光
[I] still have to continue to search for the scenery along [my] way

Repeat *

如若真的相信輪迴的話
If [we] really believe in reincarnation
還未急於觸碰霎眼煙花
There's no hurry to touch the instant fireworks
此刻離別 且看生命昇華
Parting at this moment, let's watch how life transforms into the sublime
誰話過祗得一剎那
Who says it only lasts for a moment?

心間留住這片鮮艷光華
Keep this bright brilliance in [my] heart
我更加堅強過活吧
I'll be stronger in my life

Someone to Say Goodbye to

Someone to Say Goodbye to was released in 2014, but it came to prominence when it was reported that Nathan Law, the young former pro-democratic legislator, listened to this song alone at the airport on the night when he secretly fled to the UK on the eve of the implementation of the National Security Law in 2020. Most of his fellow politicians and activists have since been arrested and jailed, and Nathan continues to advocate for democracy in Hong Kong while in exile.

說再見的對象 Someone to Say Goodbye to

music and lyrics by Pong Nan

戲快要結束 也要有配樂
The film is about to end, and it needs a soundtrack
送那尾班車 也要有月台
Seeing off the last train, and it needs a platform
擠身於機場 假使依依不捨
At the airport, even if reluctant to part
也要有聽者方能說再見
It needs a listener to say goodbye to

多瀟灑的你 縱說最渴望自由
How handsome you are, although [you're] most eager for freedom
總擠得一個 同伴或摯友
There's still room for a companion or a close friend
見證過你在 可等你走了後
To witness that you were here, then after you left
與子孫 去追憶 你所有
To remember all you had with [your] descendants

要是回眸 也要有人看
If [you] look back, it needs someone to see [you] off
要是離開 揮手都要對象
If [you] leave, it needs someone to wave goodbye to
告別前塵 有我倒後鏡內凝望
Say farewell to the past, there's me looking in the mirror
請不要怕 給蒼生淡忘
Please don't be afraid that the common people will forget [you]

分開不可怕 至怕去到最盡頭
Separation is not scary, the worst is when at the end
想牽一牽手 尋亦沒法有
When [you] want to shake hands, nobody's there even if [you] search
有某個結伴 觀看沙漏全滴透
With someone beside [you] to watch the hourglass drip through completely
這一世 至可算 無白走
This life can then be regarded as not a waste of time

要是回眸 也要有人看
If [you] look back, it needs someone to see [you] off
要是離開 揮手都要對象
If [you] leave, it needs someone to wave goodbye to
要是彌留 也要有人帶淚默然對望
If [you're] dying, it needs someone will see [you] silently in tears
遙望你孤身上路
Watch from a distance on you travelling alone
來為你祝禱平安
Come to pray for your safety

背後無人 再見哪樣講
No one's behind [you], how to say goodbye
那份回憶 只得空氣一樣
That memory will be just like air
始終有我 替你記住每分的過往
There's always me, remembering every minute of the past for you
請不要怕 給蒼生淡忘
Please don't be afraid that the common people will forget [you]

唱這闋輓歌 送上這吻別
Singing this elegy, sending this kiss goodbye
眼角縱流淚 心裡帶著甜
Although there's tears in [my] eyes, [I feel] sweet in my heart
高高的天涯 你快去浪蕩吧
High in the horizon, you better hurry to your next adventure
我信有某天必然會再見
I believe that one day we will definitely meet again
Nathan Law

Other songs

There are many other songs that I would highly recommend, and here are the links to some of these:

  • 六月 June - an obscure song reflecting on the Tiananmen Square Massacre (June 4th).
  • 無瑕年代 Flawless Era - it was a special song that the lyrics was written by writer Ong Yi Hing first before Pong composed the music. The song was about all those past events that we chose to forget.
  • 盲年 Blind Year - a blind year in the Chinese calendar refers to a year without a Lichun or the start of spring, which is considered an unlucky year. This song was about a person born in a blind year who went against the odds.
  • 好風光 Good Scenary - this is not a single song, but an entire album from 2012 that I highly recommend. It was a tribute to the 80s music, with references to classics such as INXS Need You Tonight in 晚晚禮拜六 Every Night is Saturday, which was a polarising song due to its explicit lyrics. In my opinion, this was the peak of Pong Nan's music. Since then he returned to the more crowd-pleasing ballads in his following albums.
  • 你倫敦.我紐約 You London, Me New York - this 2013 song used the analogy of London versus New York to describe two people with different personalities, one being more restrained and the other more vulnerable.
  • 禁色 Forbidden Colours - this is Pong's cover of the Tat Ming Pair's classic. Pong struggled in his early years with his sexuality. However, he came out eventually and is now a vocal advocate of LGBT rights in Hong Kong.
  • 醫生我無病 Doctor I Ain't Sick - this is his latest song released this year, featuring rapper Matt Force. Pong suffered from chronic pain since the mid-2010s and had to stop working. He sought various medical help and was misdiagnosed many times. He slowly recovered by improving his mental health himself. In addition, this song reflects on the recent news that many jailed protesters in Hong Kong are forced to undergo deradicalisation treatment in prison.

Pong Nan is one of my favourite and the most outspoken Cantopop singer-songwriters. He also wrote many songs for other artists which I have not introduced here yet (maybe another blog). I hope you enjoy his music too, and thanks again for reading my blog.

+1
Level 49
May 19, 2022
I’m commenting because nobody else has.