Desert Rose (Sting & Cheb Mami)

"Desert Rose" is a single by Sting from his album Brand New Day (1999). The song is noted for Sting's duet performance with Algerian raï singer Cheb Mami, creating a distinct world music feel to the song.
 
The lyrics of the song are inspired by the Frank Herbert novel, Dune, of which Sting is a fan. Sting also played the villainous Feyd Rautha in the 1984 film adaptation. Both the book and the song feature the Arabic language, as well as imagery involving moisture and desert plantlife.

Layli ya layli ya

Hadi muda tweela
Wana nh'awis ana wa'la ghzalti
Wana nh'awis ana wa'la ghzalti
Wana nh'awis ana wa'la ghzali


I dream of rain
(Ya lili ah ya leel)
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in vain (Ya lili ah ya leel)
I dream of love as time runs through my hand

I dream of fire (Ya lili ah ya leel)
Those dreams are tied to a horse that will never tire
And in the flames (Ya lili ah ya leel)
Her shadows play in the shape of a man's desire

This desert rose (Ya lili ah ya leel)
Each of her veils, a secret promise
This desert flower (Ya lili ah ya leel)
No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this

And as she turns (Ya lili ah ya leel)
This way she moves in the logic of all my dreams
This fire burns (Ya lili ah ya leel)
I realize that nothing's as it seems

I dream of rain (Ya lili ah ya leel)
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in vain (Ya lili ah ya leel)
I dream of love as time runs through my hand

I dream of rain (Ya lili ah ya leel)
I lift my gaze to empty skies above
I close my eyes
This rare perfume is the sweet intoxication of her love

Aman aman aman...

I dream of rain (Ya lili ah ya leel)
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in vain (Ya lili ah ya leel)
I dream of love as time runs through my hand

Sweet desert rose (Ya lili ah ya leel)
Each of her veils, a secret promise
This desert flower (Ya lili ah ya leel)
No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this

Sweet desert rose (Ya lili ah ya leel)
This memory of Eden haunts us all
This desert flower
This rare perfume, is the sweet intoxication of the fall

Ya lili ah ya leel

I DREAM OF RAIN= (notice the preposition OF with the verb DREAM. You can also say ABOUT)

YA LILI AH YA LEEL= (Arabic: transliterated from "Layli ya layli ya") Oh, night! Oh, night!

IN VAIN= For no purpose, to no avail. If you do something in vain, you do it but you can't get the desired result.
Sting is in the desert dreaming of gardens and rain, but when he wakes up, there's nothing there, it was just a dream.

TIRE= (verb) Get tired.

I LIFT MY GAZE= I look up.

RARE= Not frequent, hard to find.

EDEN= /i:dən/The Garden of Eden is the name given in the Bible to the Paradise where we lived in the beginning. When man sinned (they disobeyed God and listened to Satan), they were expelled from Paradise. That is called "the fall".

HAUNTS= /hɔ:nts/ If something haunts you, it's always present in your mind or in your presence. A haunted house is a place where a ghost lives and can often be seen or felt in some way. A haunted memory is something that you can never forget, that is always on your mind, like a ghost that refuses to leave the house.

THE FALL= As we mentioned before (see "Eden"), the Fall is when man sinned and was expelled from Paradise. The Fall was a matter of disobedience, but many people (including Sting here) wrongly consider that the Fall was some kind of sexual sin, so when he says "the sweet intoxication of the fal" he means that the sexual attraction he feels towards that mysterious woman with exotic fragrance is intoxicating, like a drug that you can't refuse.


-- ARABIC PARTS --

Samiel, from Lebanon, wrote a very good explanation about the Arabic lyrics on this song. Since I know no Arabic I'll just assume it's all correct. Enjoy his comments:

Hello everyone. I am a Lebanese Canadian. First of all, Cheb Mami is an Arab, and that makes me so proud.....His voice, lets just say, it takes you places. Someone mentioned earlier on here that the word "aman" in the song means water. That is not true. Obviously they are not very familiar with the Arabic language. Let me start by translating what Cheb Mami is singing.....

A few things before translating:

The words "leyli ya leyli mean "oh my night Oh my night" Arabs sing about the night and tend to "talk" to the night in songs and poems especially when the poetic or singer is feeling sad. Since sadness keeps people up at night, far from being able to sleep at times, one finds him/herself alone (since everybody else is asleep) and that the night is their only companion, and given those who are hurt tend to want to express their feelings, the "night" hence, is there and listening. We the Arabs are very affectionate and romantic people in our way of course.

Ok now for "aman aman aman". Aman aman means "oh how I wish I wish I wish" Usually it correlates with a longing, a yearning of some kind, and so when you hear "aman aman aman" in Arabic songs, then the singer most probably yearning for something, maybe something he/she had in the past and had lost, or something that hurt them for years and is still hurting them, or maybe about something they never had and want so badly.

Basically the Arab singer is very spiritual, sings to God, the night, the sun, the sea, etc, etc.....

Now, notice the way we sing. I even sing the same way Cheb Mami does, although I am not able to hit that high note he can, or pitch it high up there....I wish I could have, this would allow me to do way more with my scaling.

The Arabic scale is different than the western one. I believe there is more mystery and emotion in the Arabic one. When you are bottled with emotions, and they need to come out, nothing does the job better than the Arabic scale. You really feel light afterwards. Then again, this is just an opinion of mine. I also love listening to English music.

One last thing...notice the vibrations in Cheb Mami's voice or cords....i believe -but this is just my opinion-that the vibrations in the Arabic style of singing, comes from our love for the flute. I'm not sure what they call the instrument here, but it sounds exactly like a flute. Let's call it the Arabic flute. Our appreciation for the Arabic flute, over time, made us sing in a way where we would sound almost like the flute. Another thing is the vibrations tend to convey certain emotions. So when Cheb Mami at the end scales up, and then drops it, ( he did that live concerts mostly) its like he is saying "this is my story" or " farewell dear night" " or " don't forget my oh night" or "lest shall I forget you oh night" things like that....the point is to end it with emotion, with hope, a simple wish, and better day yet to come, or even just simply "this is what happened here, this is my story, this was my pain or this is my pain, and this is who you are to me, oh night" things like that.....

ok..now as to the translations:

layli ya layli
oh my night oh my night

hadi mudeh taweela
its been quite a while OR
what a long time its been

wu ena nhawis ena ala ghzey il tee
I've been looking/searching for my love
and im searching for my love
2x
wu ena nhawis ena waaaaaa ala ghzaly
(same) only he says ghzaly this time, not ghzeyilty....

the difference here, well its like saying
I've been looking for the love of my life
I've been looking for the love of my life
I've been looking for my love

aman aman aman =insenuates pain, yearning, wishing, etc just as i had mentioned earlier

last part:
he uses again
wu ena nhawis ena ala ghzayelty
omri feeky inti ya
my whole life is for you/with you

now what i hear in the last one is this:
fish hada gherik
there is nobody else but you
ah ya inti inti ya
oh just you you love just you

 

THE SONG WITH THE COMPLETE LYRICS:

لیلی یا لیلی یا
هدي مدة طويلة
وأنا نحوس أنا وعلا غزالتي
وأنا نحوس أنا وعلا غزالتي
وأنا نحوس أنا وعلا غزالي

Layli ya layli ya: Oh night oh night
Hadi muda tweela: It's been too long
Wana nh'awis ana wa'la ghzalti: That I've been looking for my loved one
Wana nh'awis ana wa'la ghzalti: That I've been looking for my loved one
Wana nh'awis ana wa'la ghzali: That I've been looking for my loved one

I dream of rain
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in vain
I dream of love as time runs through my hand

I dream of fire
Those dreams are tied to a horse that will never tire
And in the flames
Her shadows play in the shape of a man's desire

This desert rose
Each of her veils, a secret promise
This desert flower
No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this

And as she turns
This way she moves in the logic of all my dreams
This fire burns
I realize that nothing's as it seems

I dream of rain
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in vain
I dream of love as time runs through my hand

I dream of rain
I lift my gaze to empty skies above
I close my eyes
This rare perfume is the sweet intoxication of a clove

امان امان امان
Aman aman aman: Peace peace peace

I dream of rain
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in vain
I dream of love as time runs through my hand

عمري فيك أنتيا
ما غير أنتيا
ما غير أنتيا
Omri feek entiya: You have my life
Ma gheer entiya: No one other than you
Ma gheer entiya: No one other than you

Sweet desert rose
Each of her veils, a secret promise
This desert flower
No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this

Sweet desert rose
This memory of Eden haunts us all
This desert flower
This rare perfume, is the sweet intoxication of the fall

یالیل یا لیل
Ya lili ah ya leel: My night, oh night

user "thedouglas" commented about this song:

The rai flavor of the music ties in directly with the desert imagery and Middle Eastern references.

A man dying of thirst in the desert, searching for an oasis, symbolizes the desire for the unattainable perfect woman. Even when he thinks he has her, the ideal disappears like a mirage, but the desire is still there.

She dances the Dance of the Seven Veils, the original "forbidden dance" of seduction, in which the dancer strips off seven veils to reveal her face. The veils are metaphorically connected to the petals of the rose, with the ensuing Georgia O'Keefe female imagery.

In the last verse, the same longing describes the human romantic condition in general. Referencing the Fall of Man from the Garden of Eden, he says that the patterns of desire and seduction have been hardwired into us since ancient times. And Eden was historically assumed to be in northern Africa somewhere

4:46            
 
 
© Angel Castaño 2008 Salamanca / Poole - free videos to learn real English online || M-E widgetsInfoPrivacyTerms of useContactAbout why?