From my World Music CD, "Soul Of My Heart"
This song, also known as "My Soul Must Be Freed," is my own composition inspired by the children's book "Ghost Train." The book is based on an important piece of Canadian history: it tells the story of the Chinese men who came to Vancouver to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway circa 1880. During this time, as many as 5000 Chinese men from the Guang Dong province came to the new world to seek a better life for their families. They were paid only a dollar a day. The white, black, and native workers were paid three times that amount. These Chinese men lived in tents that were very unsafe from falling rocks and the severe weather. Many of them died either by dynamite accidents at the work site, or from fierce storms and the bitter cold.
Based on this piece of history, Canadian writer Paul Yee wrote a hit children's book called "Ghost Train". It tells the story of a Chinese father who left his young daughter, Choon Yi, back in Guang Dong, and made the journey to North America to work on the railway. He hoped to give Choon Yi a better life. At first he wrote often, but then the letters stopped coming. After two long years of silence, another letter arrived. In it, the father tells Choon Yi to come to Vancouver to be with him. When, after great hardship, she finally arrived, the father was nowhere to be found. The unfamiliar culture and its people scared and intimidated her, but she kept looking for him undeterred. After months of searching, she fell asleep one night exhausted, and her father appeared to her in a dream.
Choon Yi was overjoyed to see him. With tears rolling down her eyes, she hugged him. Her father apologized for not being able to write for so long. Then he told her that he had used much of his ghostly energy to write that last letter from his grave. Choon Yi was wise beyond her years, and she wasn't afraid. She gave her father a curious and foreboding look, and then embraced him in a tight hug. Her father explained that he had died in a dynamite accident at work. He told Choon Yi that he loved her and would always watch out for her. Then he made a final request. He said that his soul was trapped beneath the tracks and couldn't be free. He asked Choon Yi to paint a picture of a big train, bring the painting to the tracks near where he was killed, light three sticks of incense and burn the painting. Only then, would his soul be set free.
Inspired by the historical events surrounding the railway, and by the story of "Ghost Train," I was driven to write and compose this song with musical influences from Russian Folk Tunes, Japanese Enka and Kodo drums.
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