Recently a video clip named “Hotel California adapted by a cook” has brought a kebab worker into the spotlight. The clip generated over 2.7 million clicks and 60,000 retweets on weibo within the first 6 days. Netizens forwarded the clip saying “everyone is remarkable as long as you have dream” or “if you are touched by his voice, forward on”.
As shown in the video, a group of people were sitting around dinner table at a restaurant, listening to a man in cook clothes singing the Eagles’ Hotel California with self-adapted Chinese lyrics. His husky voice along with the classic guitar slamming voiced out the current condition of city drifters who left hometown to chase after their dreams.
“I sang this song to farewell another cook of the restaurant, my colleague recorded it on cellphone and uploaded it onto the Internet. I didn’t think it will trigger so much attention” said Sha Jianwei, a post-90s kebab worker at the restaurant who was from a sugarcane farming family in Yunan and came to Beijing hoping to realize his dream as a singer.
In Feb 209, Sha came to Beijing with only 600 yuan and his guitar, thinking about singing at the tunnels and underpass to earn a living. But he was often kicked out by security guards soon and it was too cold in the early Spring to stay long at the tunnels. His 600 yuan vanished. Then he started working at a small restaurant as a delivery boy, earning 1100 yuan per month. At spare time, he bought a few guitar tutorial books and taught himself how to play better, and how to sing higher and clearer.
“I didn’t want to be delivery boy forever, I still want to live on my music.” So Sha left the restaurant and became a full time underground singer for 20 months, during which he found that it wasn’t easy, there were also many rules such as queuing, timing. “When I got lucky I could make 60 yuan a day, sometimes only 10 something, sometimes I can only afford one meal a day. I began to feel that my dream is fading further away.” Just under such despair, he adapted the Eagels’ Hotal California, “for the song sounds a little bit sorrow but somehow still contains hope”.
One time he and another drifting sketcher were working at an underpass, the sketcher was moved by his music and said “I don’t have money, let me give you a sketch as a present”. And so the sketch was now on Sha’s guitar, to remind him of the old days.
Now Sha helps at the kebab restaurant during the day, and sings with his guitar every Friday, Saturday and Sunday outside the restaurant. Together he is able to earn 3000 yuan a month now.
On Sept 15, he received invitation from CCTV-3 to perform for the famous “I wanna be on the Spring Gala” show and many other invitations followed.
“I have always like music and have been dreaming this day since I was 7. But I have never thought that my singing can be heard by so many people.”
Lyrics of Sha Jianwei’s Hotel California adaptation:
Walking on an empty street, dead leaves are dancing in the wind.
Still sleepless nights, walking with no direction.
It’s been 2 years since I came to the city, still I don’t belong here.
But I can’t go back, just stay for my dream,
Which is like the faraway light, so remotely out of reach.
Only some feeble beams, enough to keep me going.
I turn around and walk into the tunnel with my red wood guitar
Gently play that melody, sing freely,
This is the best spot I perform, full of power full of hope.
Maybe you have heard of this sad song
When walking into the dark underpass, busy for your living.
We all have dreams when we are young,
Maybe you have grown up and become sophisticated,
But please stop for a while, listen to my song,
And look back on your path, are they all gone?
Please stop your pace and listen quietly
To this song for the youth, and sing along.