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Musical Flashback: “Not Leaving” by Faye Wong

December 11, 2009

Several holiday seasons ago, at a very different time in my life, I discovered Faye Wong, the Chinese pop singer. Wong’s first claim to fame in the West had come from her luminous performance in Wong Kar Wai’s nineties cult classic Chungking Express, which featured her cover of The Cranberries’ “Dreams”.

In 2003, the year I started to listening to Wong, China had not yet exploded into the media. People still seemed to doubt that China would rise up as global player, leaving its culture still on the fringe. So, to find my first Faye Wong album, I ventured through Mott Street in New York’s Chinatown, purchasing what would become one of my favorite albums for years to come. The album was Jiang Ai, To Love, a mix of electronic sounds and breathy vocals. By far, the song that lingered in my head for months to come was “Bu Liu”, or “Not Leaving” (one of the several translations I’ve found for the title) – an ethereal ballad set against a wash of freshley chilled beats. For the many friends I’ve played it for, they are enchanted by the sound but rarely recognize that Faye is in fact singing in Mandarin. Thus,  “Bu Liu” has often been the first Chinese song they’ve ever heard,changing their preconceptions of contemporary sounds from the Middle Kingdom.

As the holidays come around again and a new decade approaches, I thought it’d be appropriate to take a listen to the elusive Ms. Wong once again. So far, Jiang Ai has been her last complete studio album to date. So here’s the clip for “Bu Liu”, elegantly simple in black and white with just an occasional flash of color, reminding us of the poetic power of a little wind blowing through the hair.

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