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Celebrating Central Highlands’ music

Update: August, 31/2016 - 09:00
Songs of Central Highlands: Songwriter Giáng Son (right) sings with singer Mai Trang at the launch of the album Gió Bay Về Ngàn (Wind Flows to the Wood).
Viet Nam News

Gió Bay Về Ngàn (Wind Blows to the Forest) -- the first music album in 20 years about the generous Central Highlands region -- has recently been released. A collection of 12 songs about the region, the album features ethnic singers Y Zắc, Siu Black and Y Garia, who are all natives of the region. Songwriter Giáng Son, together with veteran composer Nguyễn Cường, who is famous for his songs about the Central Highlands, was invited to be music editors of the album. Son talks with Culture Vulture about the hard decisions of deciding the album’s repertoire.

Composer Nguyễn Cường said that it was not easy for you and him to select a repertoire of only 12 songs from nearly 100 about the region. How hard was it to make the selection?

Yes, it was really a big challenge for us because there is a huge collection of songs about this generous region composed by regional ethnic composers, as well as by other composers nationwide. I think we need to produce at least 10 albums to be able to present the best songs about this region.

We decided the final repertoire with regret because there are some very good songs that we couldn’t feature in the album. For example, no one can sing the song Ơi M’Drak better than the late Ê Đê singer Y Moan. It can be said that the song is closely attached to the singer. That’s why composer Nguyễn Cường decided not to include this song on the album because he knows that no one could present the song’s spirit better than Y Moan did.

Instead, we decided to select new songs, aiming to offer a fresh experience for listeners. Although the song Nghiêng Nghiêng Rừng Chiều (Evening Forest) by Nguyễn Cường is a very nice song, it is not as popular as many of his other songs about the Central Highlands. So we selected this song for the album. Cường himself didn’t even think about this song because he has written so many songs about the region.

The album is a high-end product. How do you evaluate its quality?

This is a product which received a full investment -- in terms of finance, thought and labour, -- from the producer, Việt Nam’s telecommunication group MobiFone, as well as from each member of the production team. Each song on the album has been arranged by three of Việt Nam’s leading musicians, including Lưu Hà An, Thanh Phương and Bùi Minh Đạo. It can be said this album is the best about the Central Highland in terms of musical quality.

Among the 12 songs on the album, the song Mùa Nhớ (Season of Nostalgia) is yours. Can you say a bit about this song?

I composed this song during a trip to the Central Highlands in 2008. Although I have some other songs that I wrote during my previous trips to the region, none of them made me feel satisfied. Maybe the third time visiting the area, I "absorbed" more of the spirit and beauty of its culture and people. Thus, naturally, I imagined that I was a young and naive woman, who for the first time falls in love with someone. The imposing landscape of the region turns up as the young woman steps through it.

I will definitely come back to this land to learn more about it. Once I get to know and understand it well, I hope I will be able to write more songs about the region.

Despite there being a huge collection of songs about the Central Highlands, this album is the first in 20 years. Do you think this is the way of contributing to the region’s cultural preservation?

In my opinion, there are many way to preserve culture. Producing musical albums about the rich culture of the Central Highlands is an effective way. Listeners are still able to learn about the natural beauty or unique traditional customs, as those features have been presented vividly through the songs.

I do hope to participate more in similar musical projects about other regions, thus ensuring that the values of those regional cultures won’t fade.

At the launch of the album a few weeks ago, I was very happy when a cultural authority officer of the Central Highlands province of Đắk Lắk said that he expected the album to be a meaningful souvenir for every tourist to the region.

However, only 5,000 albums were available so the product is not for everyone. But I believe, once the MobiFone receives positive feedback, they may distribute the album more widely. -- VNS

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