Today’s song goes by two names — Kuureng a Lechul or Derukiil — both taken from the first line of the song:  Kuureng a lechul me a reng a mlo derukiil [I wish that if only the heart could be sent].  That wish is paired with the second line:  me a kuldureklii lekong [I could send it to you].  This song was composed by Kodep Kloulechad in 1956 [1], another of his many great compositions.  This song has been very successful, covered by most of the major Palauan singers over the years.

Let’s listen to the earliest recording I have, which features the singing of Inawo with the Kayangel-based Paradise Club, recorded in the 1960s, accompanied by a single guitar.  This was probably made in 1965, based on what Isimang Bandarii told me in my interview with him in 2016.

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Seselk ku a Renguk

Today’s song — Seselk ku a Renguk [I’m about to lose my patience] — is a trip for me back in time to the early 1980s, spending weekend nights dancing at the Bai ra Metal and Peleliu Club and listening to the giants of the Palauan electric band era.  This song feels to me like it is very old, but I don’t have any information on who wrote it or when.  The title and first words of the song are normally given as “Seseruku a Renguk” [1], making the first word sound Japanese, but I have been informed that it is actually “Seselk ku a Renguk.”  The phrase “seselk a renguk” or simply “seselk” is defined as “bored, impatient,” which to me are two very different emotions.  Even better is omekseselkreng, which would fit nicely into this song, and describes a person who is “exasperating or tending to make others impatient.”  Seselk ku a Renguk makes complete sense in the context of the song, but I think that “Seseruku” is what people actually sing (see Sheldon’s version, below).  Unfortunately, I haven’t found an early recording of this song that documents how it was sung before the 1980s.

The first version of this song I have is from a recording of Brisia Tangelbad and her band, live at the Fisherman’s Tavern in Tamuning Guam, 1980.  In this performance, Brisia sings the first 3 verses of the song and then transitions to another song.  Brisia is backed up by an electric band consisting of electric guitar, electric bass and drums.  I love the guitar work on this recording, but the overall sound that they obtain is “meral ngii!”.

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Bai Derengul a Eolt

Today’s song — Bai Derengul a Eolt [Lucky is the Wind], also known as Ngiroureng [Mr. Hopeful], was composed in 1953 by Kodep Kloulechad [1, 2], when Kodep would have been about 24 [5].  Kodep worked as a school teacher in Ngerchelong but was an active composer of many songs as well as an artist.  His family has included a number of fine singers and composers including his uncle Shiro Bedul and his cousin Johannes Madracheluib.

Drawing in Pencil by Kodep Kloulechad, winning the 2nd place drawing prize at the 2nd Micronesian Arts Festival, 1970 [4]

Kodep Kloulechad from a College of Guam group photo in 1961 [3]

My interpretation is that this song is about a man who is so obsessed with a woman that has discarded him, that he ends up stalking her.  With sexual harassment and assault in the news these days, exploring this song seems rather timely.  From the context of the song we can tell that the person doing the stalking is a man and his target is a woman (because the Japanese term “kanozio” means “girlfriend” or “she” and because he calls himself “Mr. Hopeful” [Ngiroureng], using the form of a name for a man).  While there are many Palauan songs that refer to “sickness” (rektel ku renguk, yamaii, meringel chii, etc.) caused by a love affair that has ended, in this one the love-sick guy becomes a bit creepy.  Does the first line of verse 2A mean that he sat perhaps spying on her home for 2 or 3 hours waiting to see her? Or was he sitting, passively at his home, with her image (sungata?) so firmly planted in his mind that he sees her in the mirror instead of himself?  He’s sitting, ruminating [btw, this english word comes from the “rumen” of a cow, its first stomach where the cow starts to digest what it eats] on his obsession, thinking that if only he could be in her family, he could just watch her all day long.  Or even better, share the same body.  Maybe he considers the wind lucky not only because it travels freely around Palau, but also because it slips in without notice. DUDE!  This needs to stop.

Or maybe I’m making too much of a simple love song.  The poor boy is just sad.

In his defense, she doesn’t sound like one with the purist of hearts — she goes through men like chapters of a book, and who knows who will be the one she chooses in the end.  But, still, he is Mr. Hopeful.

The earliest recording I have of this song is from the 1980s (between 1986 and 1988) by Tresa Rdulaol, originally released on her Ngerchokl tape and then later re-released on her Greatest Hits tape.  Both tapes listed the song under the title “Ngirchoureng,” taken from the last line of the first verse.  The tapes did not indicate where this was recorded or who the musicians were.

Ngirchoureng, Tresa Rdulaol, 1980s

The lyrics of the song are given below as they are presented in two different lyric sources ([1], [2]).  I have broken up the verses into an “A” and “B” part, which are melodically different from each other.  The order of the verses (and sub-verses) in the recordings I have are different from the order they were written.

1A: Bai derengul a eolt leng,
di roureur a Barao
e ngak oureng re ngii leltang
kuk mong meng mesterir

1B: Delebeakl mekerior
el di chelita era kemikr e kung
Ng bai derengul a kmong techang
el mlo blingelel mal tang merreder
e ngak a Ngiroureng

2A: Nisang zikang e a lak kisang
rektel ku renguk el mo cherechar
Malechub me ng mlo derkek [er a blik] mak di
omesoes [re ngak] re ngii

2B: Kanozio lungil besul
e chosang a reng el mo bedul ngii
a lechul me ak duubech ak chad era blil
malechub e ak mlo ta era bedengel
Mak di omes re ngii

3A: Lechul meng mlo bitekill a tekoi
me tial rektek a kuk ekong
Me ke mo medengei berraod era
ultoir a bol meringel

3B: Msisichau el lorekedau
e a tabeluach a ngar a medad
Mengesang a reng el anata
lulekedelad a omerolel
el ourakt a reng

Tres sings these verses in the following order:   1A – 2B – 2A – 3B – 3A – 1B – break – 3A – 1B.  Perhaps this is so she can end the song with “ngak a Ngiroureng.”

The source of the melody (delecherul) of this song is listed in Diane’s lyrics [1] as “Japan.”  I would love to find a recording of this song prior to the 80s to see how it was presented.  My guess is that it was originally a bit different from what Tres did.  In Tres’ recording, she sings out of Gm (Aeolian mode) and the backing chords are i-m, iv-m, V.

I translate this song as follows:

1A:  Lucky is the wind because
it is everywhere around Palau
and I wish that perhaps
I am about to go and see them

1B:  Cursed and unlucky,
about to be discarded behind you
Lucky is the person (but I don’t know who)
who was one of her exploits and was the one to come out ahead
And I am Mr. Hopeful

2A:  Two to three hours have passed and, if I don’t see her,
the sickness eating at my heart will be with me forever
Or so how it was when I went to my mirror [in my house] and I just
kept seeing her

2B:  My girlfriend’s good situation
disturbs the heart that faces her
If only I started as a person of her house
or I shared the same body
I would just watch her

3A:  If only the words could have been changed
and this sickness of mine was about to leave
And you would know the weight of
a love that has gone bad

3B:  Pull yourself together and control yourself
and our resting place will be in the future
The troubled heart of my sweetheart
carries its journey
through heartsickness

The first line of the song talks about how lucky the wind is to be “di roureur a Barao” [everywhere around Palau].  Similar lines were used in Kebekol’s song Vietnam Tayori (Adidil tial buil el roureur Belau) and Shiro Bedul’s 1956 song Adidil er Tial Buil (Adidil er tial buil, e roureur, a Barao).  Since this song was composed first, it possibly was the source/inspiration for the other two songs.  The essence of this phrase is that the wind or the moon is lucky that it can be all around Palau because the singer cannot (he/she is stuck in their village or in Viet Nam, depending on the context), not able to see their loved one.

In the second half of the third verse, there are two instances of lyric borrowing.  The first is “Msisichau el lorekedau” [pull yourself together and control yourself] is also used in the song Chesebreng (aka Sidai Rekid or Dolib Sidai) composed by Ngirasiau.  In the third line of verse 3B, the lyric is “Mengesang a Reng el Anata,” the title and subject of a completely different song.  I don’t know who wrote the song “Mengesang a Reng,”  but it shows up in a 1963 matamatong recording Barbara Smith did in Kayangel.  Isimang Bandarii told me that Mengesang a Reng is older than he is and he thought it was a Kayangel song.  Halley Eriich credited Ymesei with its composition. [5]

The only other recording I have of today’s song is from what appears to have been a demo tape that was recorded by Markus Ngiraked in the 1990s.  I found this recording among the Ngerel Belau Radio Tapes, but this was recorded in Saipan.  Markus is singing and playing an electronic keyboard.  He sings the lyrics in the following order:   1A – 2B – 2A – 1B – 3A – 3B.

Bai Derengul a Eolt, Markus Ngiraked, 1990s

The last two lines of verse 2A gave me a bit of a translation problem, mostly because of how word order in Palauan can be so different from English.  Tres sings “malechub me ng mlo derkek mak di omesoes re ngak re ngii.” That ending “re ngak re ngii” is like mental gymnastics for me, and I still don’t completely understand what she means.  Mar tells me that Tres twisted things up a bit.  Markus drops the “re ngak“, which simplifies it in my mind.  I think what Tres means is that when our hero went to the mirror he just keeps looking “at myself and seeing her.”

This is a very expressive song, describing well the obsession of a man carrying the weight of lost love.  It is good to be Mr. Hopeful, but remember that “no means no.”  Sometimes you should just move on.

[1] — Diane Ngiraboi’s lyrics compilation, 7/14/1981
[2] — Chelitakel ‘R Belau, Volume 1, PCC Library (undated and no author listed), 90 pages total
[3] — Micronesian Reporter, September 1961, pg. 10.
[4] — Micronesian Reporter, April 1970, pg. 25
[5] — Interviews with August Remoket, Isimang Bandarii and Halley Eriich May, 2016

Tiang di Ketenged Lomuchel

Just when things were going so well, they decided to “up the game” and then one of the couple gets cold feet.  That seems to me to be the theme of today’s song, Tiang di Ketenged Lomuchel [this is just our first time to start].  And then, once they discovered that they had different objectives in their relationship, the lies began.  Can’t we just go back to the way it was?

This song was composed by Ymesei Ezekiel in 1961 [1].  We have several early recordings of the song.  Let’s start with singer (and later doctor) Francisca Yalap and the Tungelbai Band, recorded in the 1960s.  The Tungelbai band was from Aimeliik and notably included a violin player.  The backup also included a mandolin and guitar.

Tiang di Ketenged, Francisca Yalap & the Tungelbai Band, 1960s

Dr. Omdiderengul Francisca Yalap of Palau, first Micronesian to receive medical degree from accredited U.S. university [4]

This recording was probably done in the mid 1960s, before Dr. Yalap left for university (she completed her BS in 1971) and medical school, ultimately to get her MD degree in 1977 at the University of Hawaii. [3]  Her photograph to the right is probably about ten years after the recording, since it was from 1977.

This song is in 3/4 time (waltz).  This recording is in the key of F#, but they probably played it in G (maybe the instruments were tuned down slightly, maybe the tape speed is a little slow).  The melody is in a major key (Ionian mode) using the diatonic scale (all 7 notes of the scale).  The chords are I, IV and V.

The lyrics to the song (with variations shown in brackets) are:

Tiang di ketenged lomuchel e
kau ousuliub kur omerolem
Mak sekkak el mei milil, lomdid a telbiil e kau
a di obeso cheldechedechad, me a yaksok re kau me a ngak
e mocha er a aikel soam
Lomeruud a deleuill

Me aikang di blulekngem re ngak
e ngak a mlo oumerang re kau
Mak ngoio klengit el reng, e kau a di diak modengei
leng chitel a rasechebeab, el diak le chubchubchad
[Meng di ngara ungil re ngii] [e mocha era ungil a besul]
[E] ngak a kurusi

Me ng bai di kululuuch e
bo dudidar a mla roled
me bo desa mle kingelled, el di ngara ulecheuekl
e demekl a mla telbiil, el okes a mla deleuill
Tangai ni yuki masio, siroi bara

I translate this as follows:

This is just our first time to start and
you are avoiding the journey you are about to take
I made the effort to come and play, following the plan
and you just forget our story and the promise between you and me
and start to go do these things you want
It tears apart our relationship

And these are just your lies about me
and I only told the truth about you
I am beginning to receive sorrow and you just don’t know
because its abandonment was cruel and without compassion
[And it is just good for him] [and beginning to arrive at a good situation for him]
while I am in pain

Instead, I just pray that
we can find a way back to the way it was between us
and we will go see our place that is hidden from the others
and revive the vows we made to each other, to strengthen the relationship we had
let’s go and I will give you white roses

The first line of this song is rather subtle in its presentation, but pretty clear in its meaning.  Kind of like another song that talks about the “first time”, Nanyo Sakura, which was also composed by Ymesei and also describes the proposed activity as “going to / coming to play” (momei milil).

This song is another that uses the term “rasechebeab” [the blood of a rat], meaning “cruel,” a favorite term of mine.  Other songs that use that term are Halley Eriich’s “Decheruk era Tmong,” Rosania Matchiau’s “SDS” and Sekang Oingerang’s “Ngera Uchul ma Chelid.”

In the 3rd verse, Ymesei uses the term “bo dudidar” [literally: we build a bridge].  I like this term (as a Civil Engineer) and have found it in other songs including Bamboo Inn.  I mention it also as an excuse to show this cool photograph I found in the Marianas Variety newspaper.

3 modes of transportation at Renrak as bridge is being constructed in 1977 [3, pg. 11]

The last line of the song is in Japanese.  In the two versions from the 1960s, they sing it as I wrote it above.  In Brisia’s version (below), she sings the last line twice, with additional words:

Tangai ni yuki masio, anohito ni
saitara agemasio siroi bara

which Kaoru translated for me as “Let’s go together, for my sweet heart, when they bloom, I will give you white roses.”

The next recording of this is also from the 1960s, this time with singer Myuki Takataro and the Lucky 7 Band (Ngiwal), which seems to consist of a single guitarist.  He is playing a various interesting rhythm behind Myuki and starts out with a very minor-sounding riff (hitting the flatted 6th), that then transitions into the major-key melody.  Myuki sings verse 1, then 3, then 2 but for the 2nd to last line substitutes from verse 1.

Tiang di Ketenged, Myuki Takataro and the Lucky 7 Band, 1960s

Brisia Tangelbad recorded this song with a more modern arrangement and it was released on the “Tribute” CD released in 2004.  That CD also credited the composition to Ymesei [2].

Tiang di Ketenged, Brisia Tangelbad, 2004

[1] — Diane Ngiraboi’s lyrics compilation, 7/14/1981
[2] — Liner Notes on the CD “The Tribute:  Compositions by Imesei, Kodep, Kebekol and many more,” 2004, Belau National Museum.
[3] — Marianas Variety, Vol. 6, No. 3, April 7, 1977 pg. 7.  “Yalap Receives MD Degree”
[4] — Trust Territory Photograph Archives

Bechesiik el Kmal Mle Betik a Renguk

Today’s song — Bechesiik el Kmal Mle Betik a Renguk [my sweetheart is the one who found my heart] — is a straight-up love song with a “hurt and inert” theme.  As I’ve discussed previously, all emotions in the Palauan language spring from the heart.  This song places the heart even more front and center with the singer showing her vulnerability, bringing her heart to face her lover and placing her heart in his hands — what he chooses to do with it will either bring her joy or pain.  In the end, it is pain (or sickness) for her heart as he has forgotten her and moved on.

The only recording I have found of this song was from the 1960s, sung by Teruko Rengulbai and the Friday Night Club.  The Friday Night Club musicians include mandolin, guitar, tambourine and other percussion, plus what sounds like a bass (but might have been something like a washtub bass).

Bechesiik el Kmal Mle Betik a Renguk, Teruko Rengulbai & the Friday Night Club, 1960s

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Kitar Belau

Today’s song, like my last posting, is one whose subject comes from the Palauan experience of World War II.  In this case, the composer reflects on living through the attack on the island by American war planes during the year-long siege.

I believe that the title of the song, “Kitar Belau el Seinendang” is a contraction for “Aki ta era Belau el Seinendang,” which I translate as “We the youth of Palau.”  I provide a bit of background for the word “seinendang” in an earlier post, but, to recap, seinendang were youth groups set up by the Japanese for community service, sports or cultural purposes.  The singer recounts being in an assemblage of the seinendang as the fighter planes rain bullets on the island (and islanders) and yet they continue working.  It isn’t clear to me whether this is simply a recollection of fact, possibly occurring years later, or whether this song was composed during the “siege” and used as a motivational song (much like Arumi no Singoto celebrates how much fun it is to work in the aluminum mine).

Let’s listen to the earliest recording I have found.  This is Wataru Elbelau singing with unidentified accompanists (guitar and mandolin), recorded as a part of the Ngerel Belau Radio tapes.  The tape was labeled with the title “Chitar Belau.”

Kitar Belau, Wataru Elbelau, 1960s

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Bechesiil el Ngara Miyako

Today’s song, Bechesiil el Ngara Miyako [My Sweetheart is at Miyako], is a very old Palauan song, most likely dating to Japanese time or shortly after the war.  I have no idea who composed this, but the only version of it I have heard is sung by Maria Melaitau and the Lucky 7 Band.  The song describes how the physical separation between two lovers has caused the bloom to come off the flower but the singer keeps her love for him in her heart and dreams of when he will return.

Let’s first listen to Maria Melaitau and the Lucky 7 Band play this.  The recording was made in the 1960s as a part of the Ngerel Belau Radio Tapes.

Bechesiil el Ngara Miyako, Maria Melaitau & Lucky 7 Band, 1960s

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