Music, 音樂 (Jam1 Ngok6) in Cantonese, reveals many things about the culture and beliefs of the people. In fact, many language learners believe that listening to music can certainly help you learn a new language. So today, we will explore Chinese music and learn some essential Cantonese music vocabulary.
Vera Nazarian once said, "If Music is a Place — then Jazz is the City, Folk is the Wilderness, Rock is the Road, Classical is a Temple." This powerful quote tells about how different kinds of music affect our lives. For a country rich in culture and tradition like Hong Kong, having distinct music that speaks about their origins and culture is their identity. It's the people's experience, wisdom, and thoughts. Most of all, music knows no language because it's a universal language.
For total beginners who are afraid of learning Chinese languages like Cantonese, do not worry because all the Cantonese words you will learn have English translations and romanizations. This will help you learn without any hassle and pressure. If you want more lessons, you can check Ling App.
Cantonese is one of the Chinese languages spoken in different Chinese countries. If you want to learn Chinese languages, there are many options to choose from. But, before learning, make sure to know the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin. These two languages have different tones and written characters. Cantonese is mainly spoken in Hong Kong and Guangdong Province, China, while Mandarin is spoken primarily in Mainland China. If you want to know more, you can read the Mandarin versus Cantonese blog.
The first Cantonese music vocabulary you should learn is music 音樂 (Jam1 Ngok6). One of the common characteristics of the music of different Asian countries like Korean, Japanese, and Chinese music is that they are exposed to various kinds of music. Cantonese music is heavily influenced by traditional Chinese music and popular western music. This might be the globalization talking but, the world barrier between nations in terms of music narrows.
For a long time, Cantonese Operas that feature music, martial arts, dance, and acrobatics have been popular. Of course, when we talk about Hong Kong music, we cannot forget that this former British colony is home to the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, which is, by the way, one of the oldest orchestras in all of Asia. But, what adds variety to Hong Kong music is that it is also infused with contemporary music like Cantopop, Mandarin Pop, and English pop. So, you can relate to whatever type of music you want.
Another important word related to learning Cantonese music is genre 類型 (Leoi3 Jing4). There are different music genres Hong Kongers enjoy. Here are some musical genres in Cantonese that you can add to your Cantonese music vocabulary.
|原音樂||jyun4 jam1 ngok6||acoustic music|
|氛圍音樂||fan1 wai4 jam1 ngok6||ambient music|
|古典音樂||gu2 din2 jam1 ngok6||classical music|
|鄉村音樂||hoeng1 cyun1 jam1 ngok6||country music|
|演歌||jin2 go1||Enka (a Japanese music genre)|
|電音||din6 jam1||electronic music|
|民間音樂||man4 gaan1 jam1 ngok6||folk music|
|自由爵士樂||zi6 jau4 zoek3 si6 ngok6||free jazz|
|爵士樂||zok3 si6 ngok6||jazz|
|歌舞劇||go1 mou5 kek6||musical|
|流行音樂||lau4 hang4 jam1 ngok6||pop music|
|後搖滾||hau6 jiu4 gwan2||post-rock|
|饒舌音樂||kiu2 sit6 jam1 ngok6||rap music|
|搖滾音樂||jiu4 gwan2 jam1 ngok6||rock music|
|聲||seng1||sounds, voice, volume|
|出神音樂||ceot1 san4 jam1 ngok6||trance music|
|house音樂||house jam1 ngok6||house music|
The history of Cantonese Opera can be traced back to the 12th century. This is Hong Kong's oldest form of music, and it's also one of the major Chinese opera categories which originated from Southern China. Cantonese Opera has two major kinds - Mou and Man. The Mou Opera emphasizes martial arts while Man focuses on poetry and culture. Cantonese operas depict the culture and philosophies of Chinese people, and most of the plots are based on Chinese myths and classics.
Naamyam is another essential word to add to your Cantonese music vocabulary. Cantonese Naamyam is a narrative song that originates from Guangdong Province, China. It is a unique singing tradition where singers perform for an extended or longer period. If you go to any tea houses, restaurants, and brothels in the early to mid-20th, this type was mostly played. The instruments commonly used in this singing tradition accompanying singers are Yehu, Guzheng, and Yangqin.
After Cantonese traditional music, let's now go to contemporary. Cantopop is the colloquial word for "Cantonese pop music". It is also called HK-pop or "Hong Kong popular music," since this genre was born in Hong Kong. This is the most popular genre among the younger generations and has been around since the 70s. Its fanbase grew larger through time, making it one of the most prominent music genres born in Hong Kong.
There are also other contemporary music genres in Hong Kong, like Mandarin Pop or Mandopop. Although it's predominant and popular in Mainland China, this has been around Hong Kong since the 50s during the takeover of China.
The 1980s are known as the "Golden Age" or 黃金年代 (wong4 gam1 nin4 doi6) of Cantopop. During those times, the most famous singers are Anita Mui, George Lam, Leslie Cheung, Alan Tam, Sandy Lam, and Danny Chan. Today, singers in Hong Kong are mostly multilingual. They can sing in Cantonese, Mandarin, English, and more.
The next Cantonese music vocabulary is the word song 歌 (go1). Today, pop music is dominating the Hong Kong music charts. Here are some top songs in Hong Kong music today.
Learning to say the word "singer" 歌手 (Go1 Sau2) in Cantonese is a part of Cantonese music vocabulary. Some of the greatest singers in Hong Kong of all time, including the famous singers today, are the following:
Musical instruments are important in Cantonese music, especially Chinese traditional music. In Cantonese opera, the most used Cantonese instruments include strings, percussion, and wind. Playing musical instruments improves performance. Erhu (二胡 ji6 wu2), gaohu (高胡 gou1 wu4), yehu (椰胡 je4 wu4), yangqin (楊琴 joeng4 kam4), pipa (琶 paa4), dizi (笛子 dek6 zi2), and houguan are among the wind instruments and strings, while percussion includes a variety of drums and cymbals. Now that you have learned the commonly used instruments in a traditional Chinese instrument, here are other instruments in Cantonese.
|手風琴||sau2 fung1 kam4||accordion|
|低音結他||dai1 jam1 git3 taa1||bass guitar|
|班卓琴||baan1 zoek3 kam4||banjo|
|單簧管||daan1 wong4 gun2||clarinet|
|色士風||sik1 si6 fung1||saxophone|
|小提琴||siu2 tai4 kam4||violin|
|粵劇||jyut6 kek6||Cantonese opera|
|唱詩班||coeng3 si1 baan1||choir|
|唱片騎師||coeng3 pin3 ke4 si1||DJ|
|女歌手||neoi5 go1 sau2||female singer|
|香港樂壇||heong1 gong2 ngok6 taan4||Hong Kong Music Industry|
|純音樂||seon4g jam1 ngok6||instrumental|
|男歌手||naam4 go1 sau2||male singer|
|米高風||mai5 gou1 fung1||microphone|
|碟||dip2||music record; CD; plate|
|音樂專輯||jam1 lok6 zyun1 cap1||music album|
|音樂人||jam1 ngok6 jan4||musician|
|短樂句||dyun2 ngok6 geoi3||riff|
|搖滾樂||jiu4 gwan2 ngok6||rock n' roll|
|搖滾明星||jiu4 gwan2 ming4 sing1||rockstar|
|聽音樂||teng1 jam1 ngok6||listen to music|
|玩樂器||waan2 ngok6 hei3||play a musical instrument|
|我鍾意聽音樂。||ngo5 zung1 ji3 teng1 jam1 ngok6.||I enjoy listening to music.|
|我聽智能手機裡面嘅音樂。||ngo5 teng1 zi3 nang4 sau2 gei1 leoi5 min6 ge3 jam1 ngok6.||I listen to music on my smartphone.|
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