The Meaning of Arirang
Arirang(아리랑) has many different interpretations of its meaning, and also there are various versions of Arirang. Some people say that 'A-Ri(아리)' is an archaic word for 'beautiful' and 'Rang(랑)' 'my dear', so they hold that Arirang means my beautiful dear.
Others say that ‘A-Ri(아리)’ means ‘big’ or 'long' and they find their reasons in A-Ri-Su(아리수), the old name of HanGang River, in which ‘Han(한)’ means ‘big’ or 'long'. So they insist Arirang is the name of a big mountain pass. It may be correct for GyeongGi Arirang but these views cannot explain the meaning of ‘Sseu-Ri-Rang(쓰리랑)' in other versions of Arirang.
There's another theory. The term 'A-Ri-Da(아리다)', which is still used today, means 'sick', ‘hurt’, or 'ache'. This theory explains that Arirang derives from ‘A-Ri-Da(아리다)' added with ‘Rang(랑)’ which is a suffix making a mimetic word. If so, it can be said that ‘Sseu-Ri-Rang(쓰리랑)' is the transformation of 'Sseu-Ri-Da(쓰리다)', which means 'heartbroken' or 'heartburn', by adding the suffix 'Rang(랑)'.
The other theory says that it is nonsense syllables that make songs more exciting by putting them to the melody, sort of like scat. A-Ri-A-Ri(아리아리), A-Ra-Ri-Yo(아라리요), Sseu-Ri-Sseu-Ri(쓰리쓰리), and Sseu-Ri-Rang(쓰리랑) are all variations of Arirang. And it seems most people now use them as scats.
In my opinion, the Arirang Pass means a big obstacle we have to go over in order to achieve our goals and dreams or a long journey to overcome trials and tribulations.
Arirang Alone or Holo Arirang
In Holo Arirang, 'Holo(홀로)' means 'alone', 'lone', 'lonely', or 'lonesome'. So it can be interpreted as 'Arirang we sing alone'. It's because no matter how many times we ask North Korea to talk, there is no response from them.
And the motif of Holo Arirang is Dokdo, so it can also be interpreted as Dokdo Arirang. In the original lyrics, Dokdo is described as a lonely islet or a solitary island. Holo Arirang longs for reunification, like let's meet on Dokdo Island in the middle of the South and the North and become one again.
This is a song reflecting our desire that as if streams flow to eventually make a mighty ocean, our minds divided by ideological confrontation will get together by singing. Singer SoHyang did a cover of this song in Immortal Songs 2015 and gave us tons of goosebumps. (so we've all become poultry :P)
Here is a translation of the lyrics for Arirang Alone (Holo Arirang) covered by Sohyang.
Lyrics and Translation of Arirang Alone (Holo Arirang)
Arirang Alone covered by Sohyang vln Eugene Park in Voice King MBN 2021
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