Dubbed as "divo of Viet Nam", Tung Duong has just released his latest album Doc Dao (Only Path), his biggest music project with Vietnamese-French musician/producer Nguyen Le. The 10-song album presented in world jazz style has received a great deal of acclaim from music critics. The singer, who has won a record six Devotion Awards – Viet Nam's most prestigious music prize – chats with Culture Vulture about his stellar career.
Why did you decide to co-operate with Nguyen Le to produce this album?
It is not so much that I chose him, it is more that our common musical ideas brought us to each other.
I started to listen to Le's music when I was a student. His music requires listeners to have some knowledge to be able to enjoy its beauty and I couldn't fully understand it at that time. With the knowledge that I accumulated year after year, I became fascinated. I even dreamed about the day when I will be able to share a stage with him.
Have you always pursued your dreams to make them come true?
Yes, it's true. I always know exactly what I want and try my best to reach my goals. I'm not the kind of person who just sits and waits for good luck. Effort is a deciding factor. I've never stopped sharpening my singing technique. I am always adapting my music style and my music personality, bringing me the opportunities with famous artists, including Nguyen Le.
Le is also the one who introduced me with other prominent world music artists. Thanks to his introduction, I have got to know Julia Sarr – a Paris-based Senegalese jazz singer, Dhafer Youssef – a composer and singer from Tunisia and Tom Diakite – who is dubbed as "King of Word Music" in France. They have agreed to duet with me on some songs on the Doc Dao album.
The most difficult thing I faced when I worked with these artists was to find a suitable time for all of us because everyone has a very busy performing schedule. To record four songs with these three artists, I had to fly several times last year to Paris, where they are mostly living and working.
Can you reveal more about the album?
The album consists of 10 songs, mostly composed by Sa Huynh and Luu Ha An, who contributed to my previous albums. Among the collaborations I sing Bai Ca Tren Nui (The Song on the Mountain) by Nguyen Van Thuong featuring Dhafer Youssef; Giang To (Spiderweb Weaving) featuring Tom Diakite; 7 Seconds by Y. Dour and N. Cherry; and Redemption Song by Bob Marley featuring Julia Sarr.
Diakite was very interested in the song Giang To and decided to write Senegalese lyrics for the song.
Nguyen Le also composed the song Anh Trang Khuya (Late Night Moonlight) for me. Not only the album's producer, he also arranged, recorded and mixed all the songs.
He also had the idea to use the Japanese traditional koto string instrument to accompany the song Cuon (To Wrap). Several other Vietnamese traditional instruments were also featured in other songs.
Is the album about defining your musical personality?
You can only reach success if you know to make full use of your advantages. However, to embolden my musical personality is not the main purpose of the album. The idea for the co-operation between me and Nguyen Le came when he asked me "Do you want to join the music project of a lifetime?" For me, a "lifetime project" doesn't mean that it has to bring me more fame.
It can be said that Le and I have challenged ourselves to present another angle of Vietnamese music to the world. Our music is a blending of traditional folk tunes with modern world music.
Your up-coming live concert on Sunday is to support the album's release?
Yes, it aims to introduce the album widely. That's why the concert has the same name of the album, Doc Dao. Alongside the songs in the album, I will also satisfy my audiences with versions of some hits. Three artists who joined me in the Doc Dao album will also accompany me during the upcoming show.
Last but not least, a Paris-based recording company has agreed to release this album in France and many other countries across the globe. The release will be implemented in the next few months.
Nguyen Le and I will also discuss the possibility of releasing a vinyl record of this album. — VNS