Foreign artists make music with inspiration from Vietnamese epic

June 29, 2022 - 09:05

The classic Vietnamese epic Lục Vân Tiên, which may be read in a variety of languages and dialects throughout the world, has been given new life by international artists.

HÀ NỘI — The classic Vietnamese epic Lục Vân Tiên, which may be read in a variety of languages and dialects throughout the world, has been given new life by international artists.

Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, the writer of the epic, was a Vietnamese poet renowned for his nationalist and anti-colonial writings against the French. 

June 30 would have been his 200th birthday.

Lê Quý Dương, the show's general director, gathered numerous worldwide performers to spread the influence and popularity of Lục Vân Tiên, a famous epic by Chiểu.

Swedish singer-songwriter Tamela Hedstrom admitted that when director Dương disclosed his plan to invite her to make a song inspired by the epic Lục Vân Tiên, she was a bit surprised because she was unfamiliar with it at the time.

Swedish musician-singer Tamela Hedstrom. Photo courtesy of the artist

However, she accepted the offer because she had previously met Dương at the 2020 Fujairah International Art Festival (UAE) and valued the chance to collaborate with him.

"Director Lê Quý Dương told me about the renowned poet Nguyễn Đình Chiểu and the poem Lục Vân Tiên, and we explored the possibility of performing an art programme in Chiểu's honour," Tamela said. 

She also expressed her initial impression of Lục Vân Tiên as a beautiful and enthralling tale that advises everyone to overcome adversity.

The Swedish artist stated that she began reading Lục Vân Tiên in English and took note of all the wonderful features and messages that were included inside.

"A visual of the characters and other details popped into my head while I was reading. From there, the tunes just kept coming to me,” she recalled.

The female musician was then inspired to write a ballad after reading the famous Vietnamese epic and putting the fascinating details she gained into her lyrics.

She said: "This humanity story still has a place in Vietnamese literature after hundreds of years. Lục Vân Tiên is a piece that I feel everyone in the world can appreciate it if given the chance."

It's been announced that Tamela will be visiting Việt Nam in celebration of Nguyễn Đình Chiểu's 200th birthday in southern province of Bến Tre. She believes this will afford her the chance to converse with historians and learn more about Vietnamese epics.

French percussionist Dominique Henry Probst has known director Dương since the late 1990s when they collaborated on the contemporary opera Motherland.

French percussionist Dominique Henry Probst. Photo courtesy of the artist

The French artist stated that he first heard the blind poet Nguyễn Đình Chiểu and his work Lục Vân Tiên through Dương. Later, he also discovered a magnificent copy of Lục Vân Tiên published by the French School of the Far East (École française d'Extrême-Orient), in Paris.

"I read this tale with intrigue and fascination because it's entrenched in tradition and full of innocent sentiments, while also emanating deep philosophical ideas about human emotions," he said.

The pure and persistent love of the two main characters, Kiều Nguyệt Nga and Lục Vân Tiên, deeply moved Dominique. He decided to compose the Lamentation of Nguyệt Nga, a chamber piece in the European style.

The composition opens with a solo percussion prelude performed by Dominique, followed by a Vietnamese-speaking part. Artist Mỹ Dung will perform the piano part before switching to the performance in French and English by two female vocalists. Artist Trần Vương Thạch serves as the conductor.

Dominique regards his return to Việt Nam as a tremendous honour and feels that the worth of Lục Vân Tiên is universal and accessible in many languages. VNS