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Feel the sorrow from a distance - our very first song “By Myself” released

Written by April Zhang on Monday, 13 March 2023. Posted in Front Page

Feel the sorrow from a distance - our very first song “By Myself” released

I’m not a bar person, but I regularly visit a nearby bar on Tuesday evenings. It is because that night is the jam night. Each musician gets to choose two songs to play or to sing. Other musicians will go along with these choices and stage a performance. The sounds of keyboard, guitars, bass, drums, vocals, and sometimes a saxophone, are fused together and exemplified by loud speakers.

Although I am always a spectator, I find the whole experience fascinating.

The atmosphere is loud and lively. People are drinking, eating or shouting to one another’s ears, merrily. And from time to time, they will leave their tables, go up to the stage and do a song. 

Many times, the songs they choose are sad songs. Lover has left; happiness is gone; life is lonely. But at that bar, nobody looks sad. We all clap and cheer constantly.

So, why do seemingly happy people who are having fun with their friends choose to sing sad songs such as “Creep”?

That is perhaps the greatest gift that we can get from songs that tell sad stories. 

Under the facade of happiness and cheerfulness, we all have a inner core that’s hard to share. Unwanted love, financial troubles, untold humiliation, anxiety, regret, shame, isolation, hunger or unacceptable desires. 

We talk about food, weather or work, but we hardly talk about these things. It’s not because they are not important. It’s because we are scared to talk about them. And we don’t know how. We’re afraid that we’d look like fools or appear strange to others. Talking about weather is so much safer. We want to project the image of happiness and positivity and we don’t want to be dragged down by depression.

This is where sad songs come in. They allow us to feel our sorrows from a safe distance.

Without being emotionally burdened, we know that there are others who are just like us. 

Without being depressed, our miserable hearts get an outlet to let all out. 

That is why people sing these sad songs, again and again. 

These songs make us recognise something in ourselves. These songs give a tune to our suffering and justify it.

It is also an opportunity to share our innermost core with others around us, safely.

Therefore, I consider myself fortunate to have nudged into this music world and be able to release a sad song, “By Myself”. 

The whole process turned out to be an international collaboration.

Originally written in Chinese, By Myself is a poem submitted to Chinese Writing Contest 2022 by an Austrian student Jett Coom. It is included in the best entries, Easy-to-Read Chinese Short Stories, Book 2. 

This poem speaks from a 13-year old point view and expresses a profound loss of one’s family. 

It wasn’t easy, because Jett could only use 320 Chinese characters and Chinese was a language that Jett was still learning.

I sent the translated English version of the poem to a Brazilian composer, Luiz Gonçalves, who wrote the music, sang, played instruments, mixed, mastered, and made it into a full fledged song.

To write music for the poem was not easy either. At one point, he had to delete the entire second part because it didn’t sound right. 

Luiz told me that he must feel right when listening to his own creations. That second part just didn’t feel right.

One day, he picked up his guitar, and began to play some random tune while singing. And that, a more dramatic version than the previous one, gave him the right feeling.

What followed was more hard work. Luiz did the vocal and used seven instruments, guitar, keyboard, bass, drums and etc., to finish the song. He called the finished song an indie soft rock.

This has been the journey of the song “By Myself”, from Australia to Hong Kong, and from Hong Kong to Brazil.

Now I’m presenting it to you, inviting you to listen to it, feel it, and perhaps, recognise it as something you’ve already had.

Listen to it on YouTube: 

Here is a promise:

If this song is popular enough, gaining 500 likes before June 30, 2023, I’d invite Luiz to have a live online performance in July, singing while playing his guitar.

About the Author

April Zhang

April Zhang

April Zhang is the founder of MSL Master and she enjoys teaching and interacting with students. She constantly explores new and interesting ways of teaching Chinese through creative and imaginative activities.

With her help, many students have achieved outstanding result, which has enriched their understanding about China and has significantly contributed to their work.