Are the lyrics of Yoko Kanno's "Moon" gibberish or intelligible?

  • Are the lyrics of Yoko Kanno’s song Moon meaningless (as in using pseudowords, gibberish, scat singing or similar), or are the lyrics in some kind of language?

    Maybe a fictional language constructed by Yoko Kanno (AKA Gabriela Robin), possibly also used in her other works that use similar lyrics? Or maybe puns/wordplays, as described as special case for Japanese music in Word Salad Lyrics, "based on alternate translations of the kanji used" or "similar-sounding words"?

    What I've learned so far…

    I found many claims that it’s not in any kind of language, but none of them are from authoritative sources, and none of them cover the possibilities that it could be a fictional language or Japanese wordplays.

    • Xah Lee claims on his page about Moon:

      As with many of Yoko Kanno's songs, the lyrics is meaningless vocalizations, not of any language.

    • From Gabriela Robin’s article in a wiki about Yoko Kanno:

      Her very characteristic is to often write lyrics in a specific language she seems to be the only one capable of translate.

    • From Yoko Kanno’s article in TV Tropes (but not in particular about Moon):

      Word Salad Lyrics: When she writes lyrics, this can happen. And sometimes what sounds like word salad is actually a nonsense language.

    • In the thread What language is this song? in the LoadingReadyRun forum, various languages are suggested, and some claim that it’s just gibberish. A source (supposedly a fan page, which I can’t locate) is quoted:

      Her non-sensical lyrics have been known to drive the unknowing fan searching for translations from different linguists, but to no avail.

    Regarding the (as of now) 2 close votes: It would be helpful to explain *why* this question is considered to be "unclear" or "primarily opinion-based". *Opinion* is not involved at all, and I have no idea how to phrase the question (it’s the last paragraph) more *clear*.

    The word "meaningful" probably does not convey the meaning you intend (i.e. is this an actual language, or just a vocal improvisation with wordless vocables like scat... if that is what you are asking). Asking if a song is *meaningful* (incorrectly) sounds like you are asking if the song is significant or expressive with some value... which isn't really a good debate for this type of Q&A. I would suggest getting to the crux of your question without the excessive setup and quotes leading into it.

    @RobertCartaino: Thanks! That is exactly what I want to ask, and I was not aware that it might not convey it. I tried to rephrase it. Would this work better? (I’m a non-native speaker and just looked up the term "gibberish" -- I’ve not enough feeling for the language to decide if it’s appropriate in this case)

    unor, I made a few minor corrections, but I think it works now. It sounds completely "answerable" now. Thank you for the clarifications.

  • easwee

    easwee Correct answer

    7 years ago

    The lyrics itself are meaningless, but the language does have a name - it's called Gablish and was indeed invented by Yoko Kanno.

    She wrote several songs, that express a similar style, under the pseudonym Gabriela Robin. Mostly they sound like a language you may know, but than again they don't mean anything - at least not to the listener. I would dare to speculate this is also a bit related to the Japanese pronunciation of certain letters - specifically "R", which they can't pronounce that easily and makes foreign languages sound badly distorted.

    You may enjoy this performance of Moon by Origa (a Russian-Japanese singer) that contains also the lyrics subtitles (as you may know common in japanese music videos), citing the word Gablish in the beggining. The video is from Turn A Gundam live concert.

    Yoko Kanno has more such songs:

    • Wo Qui Non Coin (my favorite from when Cowboy Bebop first aired)
    • Fado
    • Torukia
    • Cats on Mars
    • Green Bird
    • PAPA Plastic
    • Dijurido

    In all the above listed songs and probably few more I can't remember, you may think you understand a word or two, but you can't connect them in a sensible context.

    In the end it's not that uncommon to invent lyrics by Japanese singers - another quite popular artist that does similar things is Hitomi.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM