Folk music with a contemporary style

Update: May, 14/2016 - 09:00
Traditional instruments and voices: The band Giao Thời plays contemporary style folk songs of the northern, central and southern regions. Photo
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY— Although they have different backgrounds, four female performers of the Giao Thời (Transition) band have all faced challenges and worked hard to make a strong impression on the country’s music scene.

Hoài Phương, Phương Thùy, Ngọc Trâm and Anh Nguyệt perform folk songs from the northern, central and southern regions, playing and singing their music in a contemporary style.

Thanks to their performances, Vietnamese folk songs such as Trống Cơm (Small Drum), Lý Cây Đa (Hymn to Banian), Lý Thương Nhau (Hymn to Love) and Lý Con Sáo (Hymn to Black Bird) are becoming more familiar with audiences.

“Singing and playing instruments on stage meant we have to practise more to show off our strength and beauty of our voices,” said Hoài Phương, leader of the band, in her latest interview with the monthly magazine of HCM City Television.

"While other pop bands and singers prefer to show off their talent with modern orchestras and dance groups, we perform with our traditional instruments and voices on stage," she said.  

Phương also explained that Giao Thời means “the process of changing from the old to the new and more”. 

“We chose the name because it represents our ambition in music,” Phương said. “We want to bring fans a new world of music where they can enjoy singers in modern clothes performing folk songs with emotion and creativity." 

Phương plays tỳ bà (a pear-shaped guitar with four strings—which was mainly used in Vietnamese royal court orchestra) and works as a lecturer in vocal music for music schools and centres. She also performs at nightclubs.

She first fell in love with the melodies of folk music at school and later performed in two bands Mặt Trời Đỏ and Mặt Trời Mới in a more unconventional way before opening her troupe.

Phương’s younger peer, Anh Nguyệt, can play several instruments such as đàn tranh (16-chord zither), đàn bầu (monochord) and đàn t’rưng (a xylophone consists six to seven bamboo stems and played with two parallel cords). 

“We are working to give a new taste of music to youth and have been received enthusiastically by music fans and critics," said Nguyệt, adding that her band prefers to sing traditional songs about love, friendship, family and country, as they are suited to their performance style.

“Our colleagues call me a ‘brave woman’ because we have had to overcome hardships to attract youth who often prefer pop and electronic dance music,” he said.    

Giao Thời performed in national festivals such as the 2015 National Television Festival, 2015 Vietnamese Film Festival and 2016 Huế Festival. 

They have worked with talented composers and music producers to perfect their music. Their two albums, Dấu Nỗi Đau ( Hidden Hurt) and Xuân Nồng (Beautiful Spring), both include quality music videos. 

"Sometimes we were discouraged and wanted to give up our musical path, but we immediately changed our minds because, above all else, we love to play and sing songs the way we want to," Phương said.     

“They are different from many bands and singers, and I want to give my support to them," said Trần Quỳnh Giao, who attended the performance of Giao Thời at 2016 Huế Festival in Huế City. VNS