Quang Ly has made a reputation for himself as a timeless singer of revolutionary and romantic songs. Born in Thailand, Ly returned to Viet Nam with his family when he was 9. He studied music in Ha Noi and moved to HCM City in 1983. His songs started gaining popularity in 1975 – a historical milestone marking the country's unification. Then he released his first original album in 2009. He's since judged several singing contests. Nguyen Thuy Binh spoke to him about his career and training.
Inner Sanctum: You are recognised as one of the best singers performing romantic and patriotic songs. What makes you enthusiastic about singing these songs ?
My life was up and down. After I got married and having children, my family moved to HCM City. The 1980s and early 1990s period was a difficult time for me, as well as many other artists. I could not earn much money by singing and I was not the bread winner in my family.
I had to do many extra jobs to make a living, but it wasn't effective. At the worst time, I had to sell my performance costume. That time was the most difficult in my life. I was so disappointed and decided to give up singing. I applied for work that did not relate to singing. I had a sleepless night and thought that I was born to become a singer. I would have become too crazy if I would have given up my singing career.
I think romantic music is an endless theme for people, including old and young who always wish they had a better and happier life. In war time, romantic revolutionary songs brought true love for people, helping them to live more vigorously.
In peaceful times, romantic songs are really meaningful for people.
Inner Sanctum: You studied music when you were 12 years old. How and when did you become a solo singer?
I was born in Thailand but my family moved to and lived in the northern province of Hai Phong. My house was near the sea and I always rode my bicycle to the sea while singing loudly with my friends.
I gain life experiences through the moving of my family from place to place. The experiences help me to sing the patriotic and romantic songs.
I still remember a show in Hai Phong. The solo singer became suddenly sick before the show and I was appointed to replace him. I was 23 years old at that time and I cried out of happiness.
Inner Sanctum: What's your most important memory when you performed during the border battle against the Khmer Rouge regime?
I went to many places singing for soldiers when I was in the Art Troupe of the Liberation Radio. But the most valuable memory was during the border battles. I sang without accompaniment for tens of thousand of soldiers. They sang and followed me. Sometimes, I performed at outposts for a few soldiers. I was asked by them to sing songs about homelands. These songs often moved them.
Moreover, I still remember the beginning of the country's unification. I was profoundingly impressed by composer Trinh Cong Son's songs. I love beautiful melodies and poetic words that I can read over many times to understand. I later bought a few cassettes so I might enjoy Trinh songs as they were performed by southern singers.
Inner Sanctum: You are a northern singer who is moving to live in the south. In your opinion, is there any distinction between northern and southern music?
I see southern singers performing with their soprano voices and I am impressed because they pronounce words clearly. The most I learnt was that these singers showed off their characteristics when they sang.
Inner Sanctum: You were recently among jury members on a television patriotic song contest. What are your comments about the show and the performances by young singers?
The patriotic songs were written during war time by talented composers. They and their works are masterpieces of Vietnamese music.
I really appreciate young singers who sing revolutionary songs. They did not experience war like our generation did and suffer losses. But their performances moved me.
I'm tutoring the It's Time band in singing. I feel sympathy for the band members, because they are from different rural areas and established their names by themselves. They remind me of my own difficult times in past years.
I agreed to tutor them because I saw their determination.
Inner Sanctum: What's the most important thing that occurred in your training as a young singer?
Young singers now are impacted by world music trends. It's good. But I want young singers to remember their Vietnamese roots. The most important thing is that audiences are moved by heartfelt emotions. — VNS