Notions of love, existence, and universal versus personal obligation are tested in this modern myth based on an ancient narrative form called “Shuo-chang,” literally meaning “speak-sing” in Mandarin Chinese. The narrative mixes Portuguese, Tetum, English, Taiwanese, and Mandarin interchangeably with the sound and space of voice (Jen Shyu, composer), dance (Satoshi Haga, choreographer), viola (Mat Maneri), clarinet (Ivan Barenboim), vibraphone (Chris Dingman), and percussion (Satoshi Takeishi). Poetry by Patrícia Magalhães, commissioned by The Jazz Gallery with support from the Jerome Foundation.

Jen Shyu, composition, voice, dance, er hu
Satoshi Haga, dance
Ivan Barenboim, clarinet
Chris Dingman, vibes
Mat Maneri, viola
Satoshi Takeishi, percussion
Poetry by Patrícia Magalhães

SYNOPSIS: The water god, in anger, cuts a hole in the sky. The sky opens. Rain pours out like a river, submerging the earth, allotting one man the fate to choose between saving his villagers from the flooding waters or being loyal to his wife and yet unborn son.


The sky opens, the water breaks: it pours from heaven like a river. Destruction in the villages ensues. A person is needed to tame the raging waters. The first is Gun, who climbs to heaven and steals a bag of heavenly soil called xi rang, which was known to expand when blown over by wind. Gun sprinkles xi rang on the water and soon, with a gust of wind, the soil swells and transforms into vast dams. He hopes the dams can stop the surging floodwaters, but as they are made of soil, they collapse; the flooding becomes even more severe. Gun is put to death by the king for his failure. When his son Yu matures, he grows determined to honor his father and control it the flood. But instead of building dams and making the water follow him, Yu follows the way of the water.

Lá vem ela, calma e bruta.
Lá vem ela, em fúria, resoluta
lá vem ela.

dos deuses ao homem ela vem
rasgando o céu inteiro
e clama

lá vem ela
e grita em ira, o trovão
e canta a dor dum clarão
e ela vem, ela véu, ela lava
ela vida, ela mata
ela vem
ela canta, ela grita, ela sangra, ela clama
ela larva
ela lava, ela leva tudo embora
e lá vai ela… 

do céu o pai traz o pó da vida nova
que sopra, que sopra
que sobra
e, passadas nove primaveras, a promessa de solo e novo se rompeu --o pai, morreu

pra bom pote: boa argila
pra vida nova: filho-herói
pra abrir caminho: canais
pra ver o futuro:

there she comes, calm and rude.
there she comes, in fury, resolute
there she comes.

from gods to men she comes
tearing the whole sky
and clamors

there she comes
and screams, in anger, the thunder
and sings the pain of a lightning
and she comes, she veil, she lava
she life, she kills
she comes
she sings, she screams, she bleeds, she clamors
she larva
she washes, she carries everything away
and there she goes…

from heavens the father brings the powder of the new life
which blows, which blows
which stays behind
and, after nine springs, the promise of earth and new was torn away
-- the father, passed away

for a good pot: good clay
for a new life: hero-son
to give way: channels
to see the future:



Yu marries. But the village still suffers terribly from the flood. He is torn between his family life and his community obligations, and five days after his wedding, he chooses to fight the flood, unable to tell his wife when he might return. Thirteen years go by as he fights the flood and the water rises up closer to his mountainside home. During this period, Yu passes his doorway three times, never entering his house. The first time he passes his door, his wife is in labor. The second time, his son is learning his first steps. The third time, his son waves at him from the doorsteps, begging him to come in.

Come back, man of mine,
hero of all — absence for me.
Your son was born, walked
already cried, supplicated
his voice has changed
he grew hair on his chest
(and doubts and pains as well)
and in the cold humid nights
his flooded eyes overflow and say:
 “come back, father of mine, hero of all — absence for us”.

Volta, homem meu,
herói de todos — ausência pra mim.
Seu filho nasceu, andou
já chorou, suplicou
a voz dele mudou
ele tem pêlos no peito
(e dúvidas e dores também)
e nas noites frias úmidas
seus olhos de enchente vazam e dizem:
“volta, pai meu, herói de todos — ausência pra nós”.



The fourth time Yu passes his doorstep, his wife screams to him from the inside of the house, begging him to enter; instead of sound, flames come out of her mouth, setting the house on fire. When Yu sees his house aflame, he finally enters and tries to save his beloved wife and son, who have already jumped into the raging waters to escape the fire; he dives in after them. But the water is too turbulent, and he loses them. He is about to drown when a mystical empty boat suddenly appears. Yao Ji, the 23rd daughter of the Queen Mother of the West, has enabled the boat to find and rescue the hero destined to conquer the flood.  It floats peacefully toward Yu, unmoved by the raging waters, as if inviting him to jump in. Once in the boat, Yu hears The Voice (Yao Ji), which instructs him to use the fire from his burning house to break through the mountain, to release the water from the town to the sea. The winds from the four corners of the world guide his boat, serving as his compass.

years came and went by
and the woman alone
the muted woman the woman with no history
with no one to give her a memory or attention
or a face.

the woman without her man,
[almost] with no name
the unique woman, the woman of all, the metaphoric woman,
the woman female dragon, that turned the pain into a shriek
and the shriek into fire

at the vision of the house in flames,
the man of the woman — although man of the world -- 
the man of many. the man born of his father’s death.
the man personification of moral.
the man bisector,
scission between his and the universal’s losses

the water embraces the woman and the boy
the mountains and the hills
devours the houses, the lives
the human and divine order
and bubbling, turbulent
once more separates the man of his [loved ones]

the man floats on the edge of the water abysm,
on the edge of life, of death, on the edge of himself
and far away,  in a slow dance in the turbulent waters,
comes salvation:
and The Voice.

The Voice is subtle and calm. The Voice is wise.
The Voice knows the way of the water
knows that one must give way
not contain
knows that one must open cracks
not emend
Life follows the way of the water.
Life follows The Voice.

anos vieram e se foram
e a mulher só
a mulher muda
a mulher sem história
sem quem lhe dê memória ou trela
ou cara.

a mulher sem seu homem,
[quase] sem nome.        
amulher única, a mulher todas, a mulher metáfora
a mulher fêmea dragão, que fez da dor um grito
e do grito, fogo

à visão da casa em chamas,
o homem da mulher -- embora homem do mundo --
o homem muitos. o homem nascido da morte do pai.
o homem prosopopéia da moral.
o homem bissetriz,
cisão entre as perdas suas e a universal

a água abraça a mulher e o menino
as montanhas e as colinas
devora as casas, as vidas
a ordem humana e a divina
e borbulhante, turbulenta
mais uma vez separa o homem dos seus

o homem flutua à beira do abismo d’agua,
à beira da vida, da morte, à beira de si.
e ao longe, navegando em dança lenta nas ondas turbulentas,
vem a salvação.
E A Voz.

A Voz é sutil e calma. A Voz é sábia.
A Voz conhece o caminho d’água
sabe que é preciso ceder
e não conter
sabe que é preciso abrir fendas,
não colar emendas
A vida segue o caminho d’água.
A vida segue A Voz.



The crepuscule, the balancing act, the red hour. Because of his skill with fire, Yao Ji turns Yu into the sun. When diving into the water, his wife gradually became one with the water, while their son rose and became the firmament.

I saw the horizon devouring the sun as a delicacy.
On the shore everybody was clapping,
Honoring the eroticism between the heat and the water.
I did see it, no joke.

On the shore everybody was clapping.
And there was the sky, sheet and witness.
I did see it, no joke,
almost hearing, in low tones, the orgasm of the sea.

There was the sky: sheet and witness;
the full moon, lurking;
and I — almost hearing, in low tones, the orgasm of the sea --
plunged, nude, in the heat of the water.

The full moon, lurking,
shining smiled,
‘cause I plunged, nude, in the heat of the water,
and came in the dance of the waves.

On the shore, everybody clapped.

Vi o horizonte engolir o sol como uma delícia.
Na areia todos batiam palmas,
saudavam o erotismo entre o calor e as águas.
Eu vi mesmo, e não brinco.

Na areia todos batiam palmas.
E havia o céu, lençol e testemunha.
Eu vi mesmo, e não brinco,
quase ouvindo, baixinho, o gozo do mar.

Havia o céu: lençol e testemunha;
a lua cheia, à espreita;
e eu -- quase ouvindo, baixinho, o gozo do mar --
mergulhei, desnuda, no cio d’água.

A lua cheia, à espreita,
sorriu brilhando,
pois mergulhei, desnuda, no cio d’água,
e gozei na dança das ondas.

Na areia, todos bateram palmas.