It has been a long time since I wrote on this blog about music, lyrics and language instead of travel and personal growth. Lately I must say that music has grown even more important to me (who knew that that was even possible), and in this end-of-year reflective mood that I am in, I am listening to it more eager to find answers to my questions, inspiration for my quests.
I have always had a thing for music with German lyrics – not so much Schlager, but contemporary German singer / singwriter music, Indie pop, pop rock and even hip hop (now I know that most people who are not German native speakers do not consider German hip hop to be hip hop. But I think that must be because they don’t understand the lyrics. Bands like Fettes Brot and Die Fantastischen Vier have ingenious lyricists!). When I started writing my own music, it was quite natural for me to come up with German words for them, too. So it is not surprising that when I seek inspiration, I turn to German music again.
For a couple of years now, I have gone to see a specific band in concert between Christmas and New Year’s. They are called Randgruppencombo, and they are a tribute band to singer / singwriter Gerhard Gundermann. Gundermann was an artist from the GDR, the former East Germany, and he continued to be fairly successful after reunification (which is not at all self-understood). Some of his most well-known songs deal with the aftermath of the political change, with the need to find a new place in this new society. His language is clear and simple, without frills. He puts complicated feelings into plain words, and because of this his songs speak to me with great immediacy. One of the songs that I have pondered a lot lately is this one called „Die Zukunft“, The Future – here in a version of the mentioned Randgruppencombo:
Die Zukunft ist ’ne abgeschossene Kugel,
auf der mein Name steht und die mich treffen muss.
Und meine Sache ist, wie ich sie fange:
Mit’m Kopp, mit’m Arsch, mit der Hand oder mit der Wange.
Trifft sie mich wie ein Torpedo oder trifft sie wie ein Kuss?
The future is a launched bullet
that carries my name and that is bound to hit me.
And it’s my business how I catch it:
With my head, with my ass, with my hand or with my cheek.
Will it hit me like a torpedo or will it hit like a kiss?
A lot of things have happened to me this year that I did not see coming, but the lyrics of this song have made me aware at all times that things will come, they will, and there is no way for me to prevent it from happening. But I have the power to form and shape the things that are coming to me. I may like it or not that the bullet will hit me, but I cannot change the fact. I can just (wo)man up and take charge of how I will meet it. I find this thought quite consoling, probably because it empowers me somewhat in times when the future seems worryingly insecure.
The complement to this song is one that deals with the past. It’s called „Vögelchen“, Little Bird, and this is a live version by Gundermann himself:
Wir wollten es fangen, das Vögelchen, in teuren schwarzen Apparaten. Wir kleben Bilder ein und wir suchen blind nach jenen funkelnden Lichtern, die die Mädchen in den Augen hatten auf unseren Mopeds, die lange verschrottet sind.
Da ist es wieder, das Vögelchen – es nistet in den nassen Haaren seltsamer Menschen, die unsere Kinder sind. Und auch die funkelnden Lichter sind dort, wo sie waren, die ganzen Jahre. Du hast sie nur lange nicht mehr angezünd’t.
We wanted to catch the little bird in expensive black machines. We sort out pictures and we are looking blindly for the shimmering lights that the girls had in their eyes on our mopeds that have been scrapped for a long time.
There it is, the little bird – it’s nesting in the wet hair of strange people who are our children. And the shimmering lights are also just there, where they have been for all those years. Just you haven’t lit them for a long time.
The little bird, as in „Watch the birdie!“, refers to a camera trying to capture the moment in a picture. While the song is very nostalgic, it also has an optimistic ring to it that the shimmering lights of hope and anticipation are never lost. It may be merely by association, but I think of a lot of people, friends and acquaintances, who have experienced loss or pain lately, and this song mainly reminds me of one very important lesson in life: Count your blessings.
Those songs thus leave me with two powerful and reassuring thoughts: Take charge of the future. Be grateful for the past. And while those are very important lessons, it is always vital to remember to live in the moment. One of Gundermann’s most famous songs, a song he called a consolation song for a friend, is called „Brunhilde“ and all about making the best of today. I did a cover version of it myself a while back with a rookie keyboard arrangement that is not very professional, but I think the sentiment is clear:
Und was sollte besser sein als so ein Abend im Frieden?
And what could be better than an evening in peace?
Are there songs that guide you and inspire you as you reflect upon your life? I would love it if you shared them in the comments!