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Entertaining French audience with VN’s songs

Update: July, 11/2018 - 09:00
Building bridges: Hoàng Thu Trang has been active in introducing Vietnamese music and culture to French people.
Viet Nam News

Two Vietnamese bands performed on June 21, at Bouffay Square in downtown Nantes, France, as part of the city’s annual Music Festival (Fete de la Musique).

Lê Hương chats with Hoàng Thu Trang, a composer residing in France who organised the show, about her passion for music.

Please tell me about the Music Festival this year. How did the audience receive your performance?

The music festival was initiated by the French culture ministry in 1982 and has been held every year on June 21. On this day, thousands of artists both amateur and professional perform on the streets. Small and big stages are set up at squares and on street corners. At the central square, artists may need the permission of the local authorities or enterprises trading in that area to use their electric sources for sound equipment. All kinds of music are warmly welcomed. Audiences will stop to enjoy it if the show is alluring.

My band, Music Rendez-vous, and AMVI Paris, comprised of Vietnamese students living and working in Paris, played at Bouffay Square in Nantes. I acted as the main organiser for the show. We performed popular international pop and rock songs and Vietnamese songs by the bands Bức Tường, Microwave and Ngọt.

When the music echoed, the audience did not care which country the music belonged to. They just enjoyed the music, bustling atmosphere and the joy of the event.

Many people stopped at the square and listened to Vietnamese songs. They sang, danced and screamed following the lyrics, which made me quite surprised. When we recognised that, we continued to play more Vietnamese songs and the audience liked them as much as the international popular songs. This was also the first time Vietnamese bands performed in Nantes at the festival.

A highlight of the show was a dance set to the music of Bống Bống Bang Bang, a popular Vietnamese song for kids, by 30 French and Vietnamese children. The dance attracted a big audience.

Please tell me about your work in France.

I’m now President of Art Space, an association promoting cultural exchange between Việt Nam and France and other countries, based in Nantes. We organise concerts to advertise Vietnamese music and culture to French audiences. We organise summer camps for Vietnamese children in France and vice versa. We prepare to teach subjects on Vietnamese music and arts for Vietnamese children, adults in France and all interested French people.

During the past two years, I have co-operated with experts and completed a curriculum on sensing music for Vietnamese children living overseas, aged between 2 and 6, based on Vietnamese music. The material will help overseas Vietnamese children develop musical talent and get closer to Vietnamese culture. This curriculum and materials for traditional dance and martial arts will be taught at Art Space starting this September.

In Việt Nam, I’m Co-founder and Communication Director of Polaris Art & Music School, which consists of five private music and art training schools gathering more than 1,000 learners and 200 teachers.

Besides teaching arts on foreign copyright courses, Polaris organises large concerts for children. In April, such a concert, titled “The World As One”, gathered 200 children and 50 popular artists as well as 1,000 audience members.

I also run a communications company to consult Vietnamese enterprises on communications strategy.

I spend my spare time composing music for children and adults. I set a goal for myself to publish at least one product for children a year.

I have tried my best to spend four months working in Việt Nam and eight months in France each year.

Tell me about your passion of composing songs for children.

Composing songs for children has been my passion for a long time. I started to compose songs for kids at age 12. When I was 15, I had 15 songs for children with registered copyrights. I stopped for a long time until I turned 30. Then I resumed the task. Since then, I have released at least one new product for children every year.

When composing for children, I take their surrounding world like roads, trees, summer, friends, teachers and pets. I compose simply, naturally without following any model. I feel like a small kid in a familiar garden when composing for children, though composing for children is not simple and it’s not simple at all to introduce the song to market.

I care about the entire process from composing, searching for suitable singers, mixing music, recording, releasing and even public relations.

I’m lucky to work in the arts training and communications field. I have received a lot of support from colleagues, parents, students and journalists, which gives me more power to continue composing and earning money from other fields to follow the passion.

What do you think about music for children in Việt Nam now?

In Việt Nam, music for children is a fertile land that not many people have exploited. It’s a market with both abundant potential and insufficient existing features. Insufficient because Vietnamese children have had too few choices for songs. They have to sing again and again songs composed a long time ago. Though the songs are melodious, they are no longer suitable to modern tastes. Or they have to sing adults’ songs and foreign songs.

The abundance lies in the fact that many composers have composed many songs for children but they have faced many obstacles to introduce their works to public.

In order to release a complete music work, it requires a proper investment in terms of finance, production, human forces and PR strategy, which may bring along no or very little profit.

That’s the reason why many songs for children may exist somewhere, but have never been released. Many composers have gradually lost their interest in composing for children.

How about your plans for this and next year.

From now to the end of the year, I plan to organise at least two concerts in Nantes and Lorient cities to introduce Vietnamese music to the French public.

Starting in September this year, my centre will officially bring Vietnamese music and culture to teach at education institutes, kindergartens and primary schools in Nantes and its neighbourhood through workshops and small concerts.

We have also received a lot of invitations from various associations in Nantes to host talk shows on Vietnamese music and culture.

Besides, I will release at least two songs for children and adults.

Next summer, I will implement a bigger music project in France to introduce Vietnamese music and culture to international friends, which will gather many artists and students from Việt Nam. — VNS

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