Giang Trang says she is drawn to perform Trinh Cong Son's music because the melodies can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. She talks to Luong Thu Huong
about her love for the late, great Son.
Trinh Cong Son (1939-2001), a Vietnamese painter and songwriter, is one of the three salient figures of modern Vietnamese music. With more than ten years singing Trinh's songs, Giang Trang is the first Vietnamese cover singer invited to sing at L'Espace, the French cultural centre in Ha Noi on the occasion of the talented songwriter's birthday (February 28th). She has just released her debut album titled Lenh Denh Nho Pho ( Memories of Floating Roads) in which she sings nine of Trinh's songs.
Inner Sanctum: How did you fall for Trinh's music?
Trinh's music came to me as an accidental predestined affinity. I used to visit Nhac Tranh Student Cafe, a one-time popular rendezvous of many young Hanoians. During that time, the cafe offered suitable space for both Trinh's and The Beatles' music, so it was only natural for me to start singing his songs. The more I sang, the more familiar and attached I felt to Trinh's music.
Inner Sanctum: You have performed many of Trinh's songs, such as Hoa Xuan Ca (Spring Flowers Song) and Van Co Em Ben Doi (I Still Have You in My Life). Which is your favourite and why?
Different periods in my life bring different feelings, so I identify with a variety of Trinh's songs at different times. Those songs tend to be ones telling mildly sad but beautiful stories, which seem to fit my common state of mind the most, such as Van Co Em Ben Doi (I Still Have You In My Life), Loi Thien Thu Goi (The Calling Of Eternity) or more recently, Vuon Xua (Old Garden).
Inner Sanctum: Before you, many singers have performed Trinh's songs successfully, like Khanh Ly or Hong Nhung. How do you form your own style?
I'm infatuated by Khanh Ly's interpretation of Trinh Cong Son's music. However, his music is like a story read by many people and each person has different ways of retelling it; likewise, I also have my own outlook and my own style.
Trinh's music can be compared with coffee beans. The same beans can be used to make different kinds of coffee like cappuccino, latte, iced black and espresso. There is no single standard. His music allows people to have the freedom to interpret it themselves, and despite its simplicity, it opens up a vast landscape for singers to dive in and make their own.
Inner Sanctum: Listeners to Trinh's songs tend to be experienced and introverted. Are there any similarities between you and the music?
I love the plainness and modesty of his music, which might also be some of my characteristics
Inner Sanctum: What have you learned from singing his songs?
What I see in Trinh's music is that life can never be complete without sadness, but sadness doesn't have to lead to despair. The sadness in his music also offers people new hope.
The only complete thing is a love for life. A person with a love for life will never lie back after falling down but keep on taking firm steps forward.
Inner Sanctum: The concerts Lenh Denh Nho Pho (Memories of Floating Roads) held at L'Espace on February 28th and 29th have drewn the attention of many foreigners. What do you think about their feelings towards Trinh's music?
Through these concerts, I, with the help of my friends violinist Anh Tu and guitarist Anh Hoang, aim to create a clear music space, increase the appeal of Trinh's songs and draw a common understanding from the listeners, regardless of their background. It is the music that is the first basic way of communicating with the audience, then comes the lyrics.
Inner Sanctum: In your opinion, what makes Trinh's songs immortal?
I think it is due to their closeness and popularity. Trinh's melodies resound not only on stage or expensive audio systems in cafes, but also along the corridors of campuses, in noisy pavement bars or on the lips of anyone who is aimlessly whistling Trinh's songs.
After listening to his songs performed by a variety of renowned singers, listeners want to start singing themselves. Everyone can find at least a part of themselves in his music. — VNS