Hands-free flute helps heal the wounds of war

August 22, 2021 - 09:36

Music provided moral support to Vietnamese soldiers during two brutal resistance wars and now it helps to heal the soul and loss of war invalids thanks to a special musical instrument created by a devoted veteran.

by Lâm Phan & Hoàng Đạt

Music provided moral support to Vietnamese soldiers during two brutal resistance wars and now it helps to heal the soul and loss of war invalids thanks to a special musical instrument created by a devoted veteran.

It took veteran Chu Đình Hỏa up to 16 years to create the Từ Tâm trumpet that enables both war invalids and the handicapped to play. Photo vietnamplus.vn

This special trumpet was created by veteran Chu Đình Hỏa after researching and experimenting for 16 years. Named Từ Tâm (Kind Heart), the musical instrument enables not only the war invalids but those who have lost their hands to play music.

Hỏa was born in 1948 in Nghi Lộc District in Nghệ An Province. Growing up in a war-torn country, like many other young people, he enthusiastically enlisted in the army in 1971 and fought in many fierce battles.

Having a talent and passion for music, the young soldier used bamboo from the forests as a flute, the sound of which became a friend and a source of moral support for his comrades during those hard days.

After the nation achieved reunification, Hỏa returned to his homeland but the pains of war still overwhelmed the veteran days and nights.

“Many young men were invalid, many lost their arms and unable to play music anymore," Hỏa said.

"So I have been nurturing the idea of creating a musical instrument that doesn’t need hands to play. Not only for war invalids but also the handicapped can play it to express their souls via music.”

If the motivation for inventing the 'Từ Tâm trumpet' comes from a veteran's heart full of remembrances and gratitude towards his comrades, its sound is inspired by the mountains and forests of Central Việt Nam. 

Veteran Hỏa pictured on historical Hiền Lương Bridge during his trip across Việt Nam. Photo vietnamplus.vn

The idea for the musical instrument came to Hỏa in 2005, but it was not until five years later that he made it produce its first notes.

In 2010, he happened to hear a performance of Y San Aleo, a flautist of the Đắk Lắk dance and music troupe. The artist was introducing a new type of flute created by artisan Vũ Lân that had no holes and could be played in a simpler way than traditional instruments. The unusual instrument served to inspire veteran Hỏa.

Immediately, the 73-year-old man embarked on a journey to the Central Highlands. Due to financial difficulties, he could only stay for two days but was able to meet flautist Y San Aleo and see the special flute with his own eyes.

Returning to Nghệ An, Hỏa quickly started working but it took him another 10 years, and much trial and error, to finish the Từ Tâm trumpet.

His former commander, Colonel Đỗ Mạnh Hùng, is over 100 years old but still filled with excitement to see and hear the sound of the trumpet. Sympathising with his comrade’s aspiration, he believed the instrument would help heal the wounds of war.

However, Hỏa still wants to improve his instrument. After a live performance for the handicapped, he knew that there was still much to do to improve its sound.

“I desperately want to bring this trumpet to musical specialists who can help to make it better. And at the same time, I also want to bring it to some war cemeteries and and play for those who fell during the war,” the veteran said.

Hỏa plays his trumpet in a war martyrs' cemetery to pay tribute to his fallen comrades. Photo vietnamplus.vn

His second wish was fulfilled when he finished a 25-day tour across Việt Nam, stopping in 20 provinces in April. Accompanying him was the 22-year-old grandson of his former comrade.

Before embarking on the journey, Hỏa wrote a letter to his wife and relatives, who had strongly opposed his decision, saying that it was his last trip and he was willing to accept any risks along the way. He also took his old uniform and the backpack he used to carry when he was in the army.

Stopping at the war cemeteries scattered throughout the central region, the ‘old soldier’ and his special instrument kept playing one tune after another. He had visited his fallen comrades many times before, but never had such overwhelming feelings as on this trip.

“It was my greetings, my thanks and my report to my 'Rest-in-Peace' comrades, informing them that I had been able to create the trumpet and a special sound that enables other less fortunate people to create melodies for their own lives,” he said. VNS