|National pride: Phuong My Chi performs a Vietnamese song during the live show of The Voice Kids. A debate is raging about the prevalence of foreign songs in singing competitions as the country tries to keep up with international music styles. — Photo news.go.vn
HA NOI (VNS)— The latest live show of the hugely popular Vietnamese version of The Voice Kids last Saturday was praised by many viewers as, for the first time, all nine competitors sang Vietnamese songs rather than hits from abroad.
The audience rapturously received folk songs such as Co La (Flying Stork), Ngua O Thuong Nho (Black Horse) and Loi Ru Cho Con (Lullaby for Babies), which suited the voices of the children and allowed them to sing to their best ability.
"Tonight, all of you are really performing, not competing," commented composer Ho Hoai Anh during the evening.
"This show is bringing back lots of nice memories of the songs of my childhood," praised musician Huy Tuan, who was sitting in the audience.
The Voice Kids gathered competitors from seven to 15 years of age and split them into three teams between June and August this year. The live shows started recently and put even more pressure on the young singers in front of a crowd. In previous shows, the contestants have chosen to sing songs from England, America, South Korean, China and even Italy.
Two-thirds of the songs performed in the previous live show were from outside of Viet Nam. This divided fans and critics.
"Why do the organisers permit so many foreign songs in the show?" asked Bui Quang Ha, an audience member. "I wonder whether the kids understand the words."
Others have criticised the show for allowing children to sing songs by artists such as Britney Spears and Rihanna, which often include inappropriate lyrics for such young performers.
Some have defended the trend for English-language songs, however, with media blogger Song Nam commenting: "Without taking the foreign-loving trend into consideration, I think newly composed Vietnamese songs are not melodious enough for children to sing. They also contain limited subject matter, improper words and aren't catchy enough. This is why these songs don't interest children."
A number of the show's fans claim that the lack of local songs just shows the ongoing integration occurring among Vietnamese youth.
"Many of the children, especially Bui Huyen Thao My, sing English very well. It adds an extra dimension and challenge to the show," said audience member Mai Gia Binh.
My's rendition of Adele's Set Fire to the Rain this series received particular praise.
Singing foreign songs has become widespread on Viet Nam's other hit music shows, including Viet Nam Idol, Sao Mai Diem Hen (Morning Star Rendezvous), Cap Doi Hoan Hao (Just the Two of Us) and the children's show Do Re Mi.
"Singing English songs is much easier than singing Vietnamese ones," argued composer Quoc Trung. "There are different tones in Vietnamese words, which requires the singer to carefully pronounce each one. The overall performance loses something as a result."
Vietnamese singer Tran Thu Ha thinks differently. It took her eight years as a professional singer before she dared to sing a song in English, she admitted.
"When I was at home, I made several records of myself singing English songs," she said. "But now after being settled in the US for several years, I feel shy listening to those old CDs. I wish I could gather all the recordings back and burn them."
Overseas Vietnamese singer Thanh Bui, who used to play in an Australian boy band called the North, said the language of a song did not matter as much as other factors.
"The most important thing is expressing the soul of the song," he said. "Music is a global language. However, I hope Vietnamese music will continue to create beautiful songs to inspire performers, because singing in one's mother tongue brings the most happiness." — VNS