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French-VN musician Nguyên Lê releases album

Update: September, 14/2016 - 09:00
Viet Nam News

The album, which is a collaboration with Vietnamese artist Ngô Hồng Quang, uses Vietnamese traditional instruments and has Vietnamese vocals.

Lê feels connected with the cultural background of his Vietnamese family although he lives in Paris, which is where he was born in 1959.

He entered the music business in 1983. His impressive career really kicked off after he joined the French Orchestre National du Jazz in 1987. His first solo albums, released in the beginning of the 1990s, attracted a large and still growing audience.

Lê made his German debut in collaboration with the Jazzpana Ensemble in 1993. Raving about his performance, German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung remarked, “No one plays the guitar like Lê!” ACT boss Siggi Loch felt the same way and Nguyên Lê was signed on as his label’s first exclusive artist.

Lê has released some 17 albums. He collaborated with Vietnamese overseas singer Hương Thanh for two albums -- Tales from Việt Nam in 1996 and Fragile Beauty in 2007. In 2011, he produced Độc Đạo (Unique Path), for which he teamed up with A-list singer Tùng Dương.

Musician Nguyên Lê spoke about his latest album.

Why did you choose Hà Nội among the many other places in Việt Nam?

I chose Hà Nội not only because it is the capital of Việt Nam, but also because Hà Nội is the homeland of my father. Hà Nội is a familiar “key” word often mentioned at my family’s meal times. Despite living in France, my father often talked about Hà Nội with us. As a result, Hà Nội was embedded in my mind even before I came to the city.

Hà Nội is also the place where I met many colleagues and integrated with the Vietnamese music community.


How do you know Ngô Hồng Quang and why do you want to coordinate with him in Hà Nội Duo?

I met Quang at a performance and his act put me in a trance. I became acquainted with him and discovered that he is very talented with tremendous enthusiasm. He can speak English well. That was very important because I cannot speak Vietnamese.

First of all, Quang and I want to produce music in the style of world music, inspired by Vietnamese folklore music and using traditional instruments.

Hà Nội Duo is expected to release in January 2017 in Europe. Music pieces in the albums are composed based on Vietnamese folklore music and performed in different styles.

For example, listeners will be interested in a piece by Quang inspired by Tày ethnic music, played on an electronic guitar and influenced by the North African style of music. Another one, xẩm, based on the popular folk music in the north of Việt Nam, is performed in the blues style.

 You returned to your roots for the first time with Tales From Việt Nam, some 20 years ago. What’s different this time?

I began my Tales From Việt Nam album in 1996 with Hương Thanh, a Paris-based singer. She is talented. She is a singer and she is usually conducted by musicians.

Quang is a trained traditional musician. He has studied traditional instruments and composition in Việt Nam and abroad. He has a good background of different music genres and a deep knowledge of music schools.

By partnering with Quang, the level of my music has been raised. I can play any kind of music I want and he easily matches it.

He is also proficient in the music of Vietnamese ethnic groups, which I’m interested in. We share many common points. He has good vocals. I think I can create many things with him.

Do you think there is a difference between Vietnamese and western listeners?

I’m struggling to meet the tastes of both Vietnamese and western listeners. For example, my Độc Đạo (Unique Path) album is for Vietnamese, while the Fragile Beauty album is for westerners.

I know that to satisfy all the listeners is very difficult, but I hope the Hà Nội Duo album will achieve this.

In your opinion, are there new and old aspects to music?

An artist needs to understand history well. It is interesting listening to music composed 10 centuries ago because the beauty of the music has not faded. I think that is the basic difference between the art and the digital civilisation.

You shouldn’t call any music very old, since there is no concept of time or politics in art.

What do you think about boundaries in the connection, integration and copying of music?

Copying in the music industry is a global issue. As a result, copyright companies have been created to resolve issues. Music is always inspirational and musicians are influenced by each other.

An artist will be accused of copying if two staves in his piece are found to be similar with another piece. It is easy to copy from the Internet.

I think copying is quite different from being influenced. When I feel inspired by another musician’s work, I study what I like about the melody. I have my principles in place to use the melody only as a source of inspiration in my own work. -- VNS



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