Blue Bird (새야 새야 파랑새야)

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Saeya Saeya, Parang Saeya, literally, “Birds, Birds, Bluebirds,” is perhaps the most representative melody among all the tunes of Korean traditional music. Sung as a lullaby, the song is usually performed without any sigimsae (melodic ornamentation), demonstrating only the skeleton of the melody in its simplest form. The melody of three pitches (D, G, A), begins with the G and finishes with the D, and when the melody pushes to an upper register the pattern is transposed up a perfect fifth creating a small melodic sequence, A to D’. This arrangement creates a melancholic and gloomy ambiance.


새야 새야 파랑새야 녹두밭에 앉지 마라
Birds, birds, blue birds, do not disturb the green-bean* fields.
녹두꽃이 떨어지면 청포장수울고간다
The farmers will cry if the flowers are dropped and lost.

새야새야 파랑새야 녹두밭에 앉은새야
Birds, birds, blue birds, sitting on our green-bean fields.
녹두꽃이 떨어지면 부지깽이 매맞는다
If the green-bean flowers dropped, the farmers will be angry and you will be thrashed.

새야새야 파랑새야 녹두밭에 앉은새야
Birds, birds, blue birds, sitting on our green-bean fields.
아버지의 넋새보오 엄마죽은 넋이외다
We see our fathers’ and mothers’ ghosts above those fields.

새야새야 파랑새야 너는어이 널라왔니
Birds, birds, blue birds, why did you fly in now?
솔잎댓잎 푸릇푸릇 봄철인가 널라왔지
Why did you fly in this spring when the pines and bamboos are barely green?

*The Korean general Bong-Joon Juhn lead an unsuccessful uprising against corrupt rulers and invading Japanese troops in the late 19th century. His nickname was the Green Bean General. Legend says that he was a Korean version of Robin Hood; after attacking corrupt officials and seizing their treasures, he then distributed them to the poor commoners. He was very popular and many commoners joined his army. His army swept through large parts of the Korean peninsula before Korean rulers requested the Japanese army to intervene. Juhn’s army, equipped with spears and arrows, was no match against the westernized gun-wielding Japanese army, and in 1895 Juhn was captured and hanged. Korean commoners sang this song to lament General Juhn’s death and the failed coup d’état, and it is said the widows of Juhn’s army sang this song to their babies as a lullaby.