The Taiwanese folk song Diu Diu Deng (丟丟銅仔) was introduced to audiences in the US through the National Public Radio (NPR) last week, as one of the East Asian traditional songs collected in the folk music album Rabbit Days and Dumplings.
The album was created by South Korean-American Elena Moon Park, who was born and raised in Tennessee.
To produce the album, Park selected folk and children’s songs from Taiwan, Japan, China, Tibet and South Korea and brought in dozens of musicians from New York City for collaborations.
Park was invited to talk about her album on NPR’s flagship news program All Things Considered.
Diu Diu Deng was one of the two songs chosen for the album’s introduction.
Program host Melissa Block laughed when she heard the diu diu sound in the song and asked what it meant.
“The lyrics of the song [Diu Diu Deng] are describing a train as it enters a tunnel and water drops onto the train’s roof, making the sound — diu diu — which sounds like a coin flipping onto a surface,” Park said.
The music was performed by Wu Man (吳蠻) from China, who played the Pipa, a Chinese four-stringed instrument. Aside from the Taiwanese lyrics, the song also has English lyrics mixed in that explain the diu diu sound.
The radio program generated various responses from the program’s listeners.
One listener, Jessica Turner, said that the song caught her attention as she was driving home and she decided to stay in the car an extra minute to listen to it. She said that the song gave her “an unexpected rush of nostalgia.”
“Imagine my surprise and delight when a song from one of my favorite childhood CDs was presented as a part of this album,” she said. “I think Diu Diu Deng had a different name on the CD I had as a child, but I recognized it right away. The sound of rain falling on the train was unmistakable.”
Another listener, named Sandeep A Pawar, also commented on the song on Amazon.com.
“Diu Diu Deng is mind-blowing. I can’t listen to it enough. I have probably heard it almost 100 times since this morning,” Pawar said.
An entry in the Encyclopedia of Taiwan, produced by the Ministry of Culture, says that the melody probably came into existence around the beginning of 19th century, when Chinese immigrant Wu Sha (吳沙) led about 1,000 settlers from China’s Fujian and Guangdong provinces to reclaim land in Yilan County in Taiwan.
The settlers were said to have heard the sound of water drops falling in tunnels and turned it into a tune they hummed as they walked home from work.
The lyrics were filled in later by Taiwanese academic Hsu Ping-ting (許丙丁), who studied the stories of the first people to populate Taipei.