Young singer shares Vietnamese folk culture through music

October 15, 2023 - 10:30
For her new project, Phương Mỹ Chi continues to focus on her attachment to folk culture, but adds modern elements to make her music easily approachable to young audiences.
RISING STAR: Young singer and songwriter Phương Mỹ Chi is sharing her love for Vietnamese folk culture through her album 'Vũ Trụ Cò Bay' (The Flying Stork Universe) to celebrate her 10-year career in the music industry. Photo courtesy of PMC Entertainment

By Phương Mai

Young singer and songwriter Phương Mỹ Chi is sharing her love for Vietnamese folk culture through a new project to celebrate her 10 years in the music industry.

“I love the beauty of traditional culture. It’s in my blood,” Chi told local media.

Chi is dubbed “Cô bé Dân ca” (Teen Folk Songstress) due to her love and passion for folk music and traditional culture.

The 20-year-old joined the music industry in 2013 after being the runner-up in the first season of The Voice Kids of Vietnam, a reality television singing competition for children from six to 14 years old, based on the concept of The Voice Kids of Holland.

Having a sweet and strong voice, Chi quickly became famous among audiences with folk and contemporary folk songs such as Quê Em Mùa Nước Lũ (Flood in My Homeland), which helped her win the Bài Hát Yêu Thích (Favourite Song), a music television show produced by Việt Nam Television (VTV), in 2014.

For her new project, Chi continues to focus on her attachment to folk culture, but adds modern elements to make her music easily approachable to young audiences.

It took two years for the singer and her team to prepare for the project, which includes an album entitled Vũ Trụ Cò Bay (The Flying Stork Universe) and a show in HCM City.

The album features Vietnamese folk tales and literary works about the country, women’s fate, family and love which are told through folktronica, a genre of music comprising various elements of folk music and electronica.

It consists of an intro song and nine songs composed by Chi, producer team DTAP, and other composers.

DTAP consists of three talented music producers Nguyễn Trần Hoàng Thịnh, Trần Quốc Khánh and Võ Thanh Tùng, who have produced numerous award-winning productions.

The group won Production of the Year at the Cống Hiến (Devotion) Music Awards given by the Thể Thao Văn Hoá (Sports and Culture) newspaper in 2020 and 2023.

To ensure the quality of recordings, the album was sent to American mastering engineer Chris Gehringer, who is known for having mastered recordings for international pop stars such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey.

Among the ten songs on the album, the most popular song is Bóng Phù Hoa (Vanishing Shadow) with lyrics written by Chi.

The song is inspired by Chuyện Người Con Gái Nam Xương (The Story of a Grass Widow in Nam Xương), a 16th-century folk tale about a woman who killed herself right after her husband, a returned soldier, had suspected her infidelity.

The story is told through a gentle melody played by the traditional musical instruments of đàn tranh (zither), đàn bầu (monochord) and flute.

Chi said although the song was about a sad story, through it, she felt the sacrifices of Vietnamese women. “I found peace in the story and hoped my audiences who are in difficulties feel peace in my song.”

The song was in the top four of music trending on YouTube in Việt Nam. It has attracted more than 1.6 million listens.

Meanwhile, the most touching song is Chiếc Lược Ngà (The Ivory Comb) based on the story of the same name written by late author Nguyễn Quang Sáng in 1966.

The song honours the unconditional and pure love of a father for his daughter, which makes people cry.

Chi brings bolero and vọng cổ (nostalgic tunes), a traditional genre of southern music, to the song to express the father's and daughter’s longing for each other.

The artist feels honoured and grateful to have artist Kim Tử Long, one of the most famous cải lương performers in Việt Nam, to join her to make the song perfect.

“What Chi has done in her new project lets young people know that bolero and folk music are not boring. That [thought] needs to be changed,” Long said,

Trần Ngọc Thảo of Đồng Nai Province said, “I burst into tears when listening to the song. It makes me miss my mother who passed away."

In Vũ Trụ Cò Bay, Chi also combines traditional singing of quan họ (northern alternate singing), ca trù (ceremony singing), and tài tử music (southern traditional singing) with contemporary music genres of future bass, disco, and dance pop.

DYNAMIC DUO: Chi (right, front row) and rapper Pháo sing 'Vũ Trụ Có Anh' at the show to promote her newly released album. Photo courtesy of PMC Entertainment

She collaborated with Suboi and Pháo, two leading female rappers, in the songs Hai Đứa Trẻ (Two Children) and Vũ Trụ Có Anh (Because You Exist in the Universe), respectively.

Both songs have dynamic rhythms mixed with contemporary folk melodies.

Chi has released two music videos for Vũ Trụ Có Anh and Đẩy Xe Bò (Buffalo Cart). Both MVs have got a total of 15.7 million views on YouTube.

The album was ranked No 1 on iTunes Vietnam on September 23.

First concert

FEELING THE LOVE: Chi is surrounded by fans at the show at Marie Curie High School in District 3. Photo courtesy of PMC Entertainment

In order to promote the album, Chi hosted a show at the Marie Curie High School in District 3 on September 24.

“Ten years ago, when I was still a little girl in a pink bà ba (Vietnamese traditional blouse) singing folk songs, I wished to have my own show. Today my dream has come true,” Chi said at the show.

During the show, she performed nine songs from the album in front of more than 3,000 fans, mostly school students in the city.

She also presented traditional dances such as the cup dance, a folk dance from Huế, while performing the song Gối Gấm (Brocade Pillow).

The song, inspired by poems by Hồ Xuân Hương, one of Việt Nam’s greatest female poets, depicts women’s love and fate.

The singer said because the poet's hometown is in the central province of Nghệ An, she put typical melodies and dances of the central region into her song and performance.

Xuân Phương, a student of the HCM City University of Economics who participated in the show, said, “The show is wonderful. Despite heavy rain, Chi still gave the best performance. I admire her enthusiasm.”

After the show, Chi shared her happiness at the audience's support and said, “I hope my fans continue to love my music and support my future journey. I hope to be part of the youth and music of my fans.” – VNS