Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Let me forget those jaded days


Video of Vietnamese singing legend Bach Yen singing song

Vietnamese Music and Novel Idea

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 | No Comments »
Tags: , , , | Categories: Music, Writing |

My memories of Vietnam are not of the war.  Instead, they are of hot, narrow, gravelly neighborhood streets flanked by open-doored, just-as-narrow houses; of dust-clouded intersections where cars knit chaotically past one another like crayfish in a tank on market day; of sleepy afternoons swinging pendulum-like on a hammock; of freshly-made pho and ice cream drizzled with sweetened condensed milk in crunchy, air-filled buns that melt in your mouth.

But the novel I’m writing won’t be about my memories, though hopefully I can still put the  part of myself that loves Vietnam and thinks it’s beautiful into the piece. It’ll be about the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War was a major historical event that has been written about probably a hundred, a thousand times over.  Still, for years now, I’ve wanted to write a novel about the war and the people that it affected–people who lived and loved and created memories in Vietnam that must be even more vivid and wonderful than that of my four-year old self are. (more…)

Vietnamese Cai Luong

Sunday, July 13th, 2008 | No Comments »
Tags: , | Categories: Music |

Vietnamese cai luong, or renovated theatre, is one of my favorite art forms.  It started as a mix of French theatre as well as traditional Chinese opera (historically Vietnam was colonized by both these countries) and evolved into something uniquely Vietnamese.  It’s essentially a musical.

The core of cai luong is the vong co. The term vong co means nostalgia for the past, and it’s actually a song written some time between 1917 and 1919 by a man who was forced by his family to seperate from his beloved wife because they couldn’t have children together.  It describes the immense longing that he feels for her.  The song was so popular that several songs were composed based on it, and these songs transformed into the distinctive Vietnamese cai luong‘s vong co.  Period pieces often feature Chinese folk stories or French novel-adaptations.  Many stories deal with poverty and difference between classes.

For your listening pleasure:

Tinh Anh Ban Chieu: [audio:Tinh Anh Ban Chieu.mp3]

Ong Lao Cheo Do: [audio:Ong Lao Cheo Do.mp3]

Doc Suong Mu: [audio:Doc Suong Mu3.mp3]

The first two are vong co songs from the King of Vong Co, the late Ut Tra On.  The first is about a straw-mat weaver who delivers a bed-mat to a customer he’s fallen for, only to find that she’s left her village to get married to someone else.  The second is about an old ferry man who talks about how he loves nothing better than to man his ferry boat and enjoy the simplicity of that life.

The third is an excerpt from a 1970s (I think?) cai luong, roughly translated as “The Foggy Hill.”  It’s supposed to be based on a Japanese story.  In this excerpt, an infamous bandit has just discovered the girl he’s in love with lying on the ground, dead.  Two other men are there with her, and listens as he mourns her death.  It’s sung by Thanh Sang, who’s a much-respected elder in the cai luong business.  His voice has a very special quality, and it flows so smoothly like water.  It really demonstrates how well the vong co can convey a character’s emotions.  You really have to know what he’s saying to truly see how good it all is.

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