It’s often said that music can transcend boundaries. This certainly seems to be the case with “Despacito,” currently the most popular song in the world.
Ever since Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi and rapper Daddy Yankee released the single in January, “Despacito” has spread like wildfire. It has since been remade into various versions, with the remix featuring Canadian singer Justin Bieber in April pushing the song to a global audience. Now a Chinese language version, as well as a Uyghur tambur instrumental cover version are bringing the Spanish single to China.
Canadian Chinese Sophie Chen is a professional singer who came to China in 2013. Over the years, she has introduced Chinese music to Western audiences, as well as brought foreign music to China. For example, she sang the theme song for the Chinese version of Disney’s animated film Zootopia.
“The first time I heard the song ‘Despacito,’ it was the Justin Bieber version,” Chen told the Global Times.
Having learned Spanish at a young age, Chen said that it was not difficult for her to understand both the meaning behind the English and the original Spanish lyrics.
While many Chinese find the lyrics to the original song too bold, Chen said sexual overtones of the song didn’t surprise her.
“Many Spanish songs are very sensual,” she noted.
Finding the right words and tone for the lyrics was no easy task.
After a few attempts, Chen realized that a literal translation was too “ugly,” so she set out to create a song that would “sound nice” even to those who don’t understand Chinese.
“Chinese is a visual language by itself so when you just look at the characters, there’s a big picture. You don’t necessary need to have a story and you can just be descriptive,” Chen explained.
Xinjiang Arts University student and Uyghur musician Rapkat Rixat also came to know the original song through Bieber’s remix.
A Bieber fan, the 19-year-old said he became curious about “Despacito” because it was the first time his idol sang a Spanish song. Although the musician admits his English is not perfect and his Spanish is poor, he found that he could not help but dance when listening to either version of the song.
Studying tambur, a traditional stringed instrument, since he was a child, Rixat has always been interested in finding ways to combine traditional Uyghur music with modern pop songs. Naturally his love for “Despacito” led him to try to adapt the song to the tambur. Listening to the violin, piano, and sax versions of the song again and again, he finally was able to come up with his own tambur instrumental version of the song.
While Rixat has performed his version several times, it was a recent performance with local Chinese dance troupe U-dance that pulled him into the spotlight.
A video of his performance with U-dance on miaopai.com has earned a total of 2.21 million views since it was uploaded on August 7.
Surprised by the popularity of this tambur version, Rixat said he and his friend are looking to release a music video for the song soon.
— (Global Times)
The 68th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily