Friday, October 28 2016


Writing ageless songs of love and peace

Update: May, 10/2015 - 06:35
The man and his music: Trinh Cong Son's songs, steeped in love and peace, are loved by millions of Vietnamese and foreign singers and fans. — Photo

Trinh Cong Son, composer of several anti-war songs popular during the American War, has been immortalised by his fans at home and abroad through regular concerts of songs that continue to captivate and capture the hearts of millions.

by Thu Anh

Dozens of singers and musicians are set to perform the much-loved songs of Trinh Cong Son at a free outdoor concert in praise of love, friendship and peace later this month at Crescent Lake Park in HCM City's Phu My Hung Urban Area.

Fourteen free concerts have been organised in memory of Son since his death in 2001, but his fans still love to discover his songs performed by different generations.

Pop stars Cam Van and Hong Nhung are expected to join the latest concert, called Noi Vong Tay Lon (Circle of Unity), together with young singers.

A highlight of the show will be the performance of songs that Son wrote specifically praising the country and peace, Noi Vong Tay Lon and Hue-Sai Gon - Ha Noi.

Audiences will be encouraged to sing Noi Vong Tay Lon, a song written in 1968 that features the musician's dream of Vietnamese people, hand in hand in peace.

Reaching out: Pop star Thanh Lam last year performed in the show Nhung Som Mai Viet Nam (Viet Nam Mornings) at Crescent Lake Park in memory of Son, before more than 30,000 fans in HCM City. — VNS Photo The Anh

Son sang the song on Radio Sai Gon on April 30, 1975, the liberation day of South Viet Nam.

The event is expected to be staged this month (the date has not been set) by Son's family, in co-operation with local organisations, to celebrate the 14th anniversary of the famed composer's death.

The show will later tour Hue and Bac Lieu Province.

Son's younger sister, singer Trinh Vinh Trinh, in an interview with local media before the show was staged, said: "We have tried our best to organise the event annually to say thanks to many of Son's fans."

"I enjoy Son and his songs because I have found that his music is like a river of love and peace that flows inside listeners' veins," said Vietnamese-American Don Pham, a resident of HCM City's District 7.

"Even people with different ages and background can find peace of mind after listening to Son's music. Through his songs, you can enhance your love for life," he added.

Last year, Pham and his family joined the show Nhung Som Mai Viet Nam (Viet Nam Mornings) at Crescent Lake Park in memory of Son.

The event was organised by Trinh, in co-operation with the Thanh Nien Communication Group and Le Bros.

It featured young pop singers such as Dinh Huong and Hoang Quyen, who first sang Son's music before more than 30,000 fans.

"I first heard Son's music sung by younger faces like Huong and Quyen, who felt the music in a different way. These artists made a very strong impression on me," recalled Pham, adding that his favourite singer is Vietnamese-American Khanh Ly.

Lasting legacy

Born in the former royal city of Hue in 1939, Son became popular in 1957 with his first song, Uot Mi (Misty Eyes).

His lasting legacy includes albums of romantic love songs, performed in a blues or slow ballad style, such as Diem Xua (Diem, My Cherished Memory), Ru Tinh (Lullaby to Love), Tu Tinh Khuc (My Lyrical Songs) and Khoi Troi Menh Mong (Smoke in the Open Sky), all of which were released in the 1960s and 1970s.

These songs are still loved by millions of Vietnamese and foreign fans.

Musical tribute: Son's younger sister and singer Trinh Vinh Trinh (with sunglasses) and his fans sing his songs at his grave in HCM City. — Photo

Among them Diem Xua is arguably the most popular.

The song is well-loved in Japan, where it was introduced through the voice of Khanh Ly, recognised as a singer who was born to perform Son's songs.

Ly performed Diem Xua in Osaka in 1970.

The song was later translated into Japanese, and Utsukushii Mukashi was listed among the country's top 10 favourite love songs.

The romantic story behind the song had had Son's fans guessing for decades.

Diem Xua was composed in 1960, using the image of a beautiful girl called Diem in pouring rain, drawing out the man's deep anguish of missing a loved one.

Son had fallen in love with Diem, but had not openly declared it. Every afternoon he would wait to see Diem walk slowly past the window of his house.

One day, Diem left a flower on the fence of his house, and the stage was set for one of the most soulful songs about lovesickness.

The song highlights the deep beauty of the Vietnamese spirit and captures the expressive power of the Vietnamese language.

For five decades, the song has touched millions of hearts, who have wondered about Diem's identity. Did she really exist? What did she look like?

Genius at work : Son's music is an entry point into Vietnamese culture for many. — VNS File Photo

Five years ago, without any fuss, a Vietnamese-American sociologist solved the mystery in Hue.

"I'm Diem," she said.

Ngo Vu Bich Diem's "coming out" event was a special reunion of old friends at the Lieu Quan Buddhism Cultural Centre.

Diem, who is from the north, followed her father, a French-language teacher to live in Hue in 1952. Her family lived in a house on Phan Chu Trinh Street near Son's house.

"I first met Son when he came to my house with his friend, artist Dinh Cuong," said Diem.

She said that she was too young at that time to know about Son's feelings.

"Son composed and presented me with some of his songs. I love Diem Xua. I think Son wrote the song to highlight the beauty of Hue, its people, its music and poetry," she said.

Son and his songs on love and peace broke barriers of language, art, religion and culture, bringing Vietnamese language and music to the world.

Many foreign artists, both amateur and professional of all ages, love singing Son's songs, and his works are an entry point into Vietnamese culture for many.

Italian saxophonist Fulvio Albano, who has performed Son's music many times in Viet Nam and other countries, said: "I enjoy Son and his songs because I have found that Son's music is similar to the jazz that I have been involved with."

Albano, a member of the Italian Jazz Association, is a foreign artist who has worked hard to introduce Viet Nam and its music to the world.

Anti-war collection

Son was one of southern Viet Nam's most famous songwriters and continues to be admired and revered. He composed several anti-war collections including Ca Khuc Da Vang (Yellow-Skinned People's Songs), Kinh Viet Nam (Vietnamese Prayer) and Ta Phai Thay Mat Troi (We Must See the Sunlight).

The songs in these collections were highly popular among students and young people in then-Sai Gon (now HCM City) in the 1960s and 1970s as the Vietnamese people fought to liberate the country from the Americans.

His songs, such as Noi Vong Tay Lon (Joining Hands/Circle of Unity), Cho Que Huong Sang Choi (Waiting for the Country's Brighter Future) and Dong Dao Hoa Binh (Children's Song for Peace), were written between 1967 and 1968 and bring his sense of peace.

After 1975 Son continued to write songs and enjoyed great success with both his lyrics and melodies.

His songs in praise of post-war life, such as Huyen Thoai Me (Mother's Legend), Em Ra Nong Truong, Anh Ra Bien Gioi (Girls to Farms, Boys to the Border) and Sai Gon Mua Xuan (Sai Gon in Spring), continue to move and inspire millions.

The songwriter died in HCM City on April 1, 2001 after a prolonged illness.

He enjoys Son's anti-war songs written specifically praising peace, including Gia Tai Cua Me (Mother's Legacy) and Dung Lai Nguoi Dung Lai Nhaø (Rebuild People, Rebuild Home).

Veteran HCM City-based singer Hong Hanh loves Son's music, saying that she always sings his songs "with deep feelings".

Last year, Hanh performed Son's songs in both Vietnamese and Japanese for two nights in Wakayama and Tokyo.

She sang Hoa Vang May Do (Yellow Flowers in a Moment), Roi Le Ru Nguoi (Singing You to Sleep) and Mua Mua Ha (Summer Rain) that had led her to fame in the 1990s.

She also performed romantic ballads like Mot Coi Di Ve (The Realm of Return) on her latest album Diem Xua-Utsukushii Mukashi, a production remixed by composer Duc Thinh.

Many artists and fans view Son's music with a near-religious fervour that promotes love and peace.

"I'm now experienced enough to sing Son's music my way," said pop star Tung Duong before his performance in Paris in April.

In France, Duong and his friend, amateur singer Giang Trang, staged a concert called Ha Huyen/Paris, which was organised by the Ha Noi-based L'Espace French Cultural Institute, in co-operation with France's Association Culturelle Trinh Cong Son.

Both Duong and Trang perform Son's songs in a different manner from their older colleagues.

"Son made love and peace with his music that everyone feels," said 32-year-old Duong.. — VNS

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