|Blind devotion: Mastering musical instruments requires natural aptitude, passion, hard-work and practice – qualities that eleven-year-old Bui Ngoc Thinh is not lacking. — VNS Photos Ngan Hoa
Despite being born blind to blind parents, Bui Ngoc Thinh, 11, has mastered instruments such as the drums, two-string lute, violin, guitar and organ. Ngan Hoa
Despite his blindness, eleven-year-old Bui Ngoc Thinh has enjoyed life thanks to his passion for playing musical instruments, which is one way he brings joy and happiness to his parents who are also blind.
Last year, the Viet Nam Records Book Centre honoured Thinh for a musical ability which has thrived in spite of his lack of sight. The talented young man from central Khanh Hoa Province can play drums, two-string lute, two-string vertical violin, guitar and organ.
It's not easy for anyone to master musical instruments as it requires natural aptitude, passion, hard-work and practice, but Thinh said that despite facing many difficulties, he had never been depressed.
"If I want to learn how to play an instrument, I will pursue until I can play it," he said.
Love is blind
Thinh's father, Bui Van Loc, said that he was not born blind. He started to suffer bad headaches when he was in 11th grade and began to lose his sight. At the age of 17, Loc thought that losing his sight meant losing his whole life and his future, thoughts which made him pessimistic and desperate.
"Things improved when I went to the province's Ninh Hoa District Blind People's Association where I found that many people who had fallen into the same situation were able to live useful and caring lives," Loc said.
There, Loc met and fell in love with a blind girl named Le Thi Thu Thuy who is always optimistic, friendly and, especially, has a beautiful voice.
Six years after meeting they got married and eventually she became pregnant. They were hopeful their child would be able to see the world and act as the eyes of his parents too, Loc said.
"We called him Ngoc Thinh (meaning prosperous) in the hope that he would have a lot of luck in his lifetime," his mother Thuy said.
However, they soon realised that he didn't respond to people who put toys or rice in front of him, and they were afraid something was wrong.
Thinh's blindness was confirmed when he was one year old, shocking the couple and almost destroying their hope for a better, brighter future.
The family of three live in a room owned by the blind association and earn about VND500,000 monthly by making toothpicks, incense and straw brooms.
Thuy joined the association's singing group which offered Thinh the opportunity to access the world of music thanks to exposure to a range of instruments. The sounds of life awoke the inner passions of the little blind boy.
Thinh showed an interest in music at a very early age as his mother often brought him along with when she travelled for singing performances.
|Music minor: Thinh says blindness is no handicap to learning to play an instrument – all it requires is love and perseverance.
Whenever the group's drummer took a break, Thinh rushed over to the instruments and tried to repeat the beats he had just heard, Loc said proudly.
"When he was about six, he asked us if he could take drum lessons," Loc said.
It was hard to find a teacher for him, Loc said, adding that many teachers refused to teach such a young student, let alone that he was blind.
"Please try," his father urged potential teachers again and again, as he did not want to disappoint his little son.
A teacher was finally found for daily lessons which Thinh got to by taking a xe om (motorbike taxi) for about 10 kilometres.
Once Thinh got his hands on the drum, he practised continuously.
His teacher said Thinh could play well after one year of lessons and had more than 100 rhythms in his repertoire.
Then, he insisted learning to play the guitar, Thuy said, adding that the guitar was bigger than him at that time.
"Hearing our son play the guitar for the first time was one of the happiest moments of our lives," Loc said.
But when he saw Thinh's fingers become swollen with so much practise, Loc asked his son to quit for a time and return to the instrument when he was big enough to manage its size.
"My fingers will get used to it in a few days, no problem," Thinh said.
Soon Thinh added more instruments to his collection of passions.
"It's not necessary to learn to play so many instruments, just focus on one," Loc said.
In response, Thinh said he wanted to play in an orchestra where his sound could harmonise with others.
"I also want to play the dan tranh (long zither)," Thinh said, adding that he loved its sound very much.
He wants to become a composer and has already written three songs about his love for his parents and his dreams.
His first song includes the following lyrics: Parents gave birth to me, giving me a whole life. The immense sky cannot cover the parental love. The endless sea cannot hold maternal love. As I grow up, I will never forget.
Thuy said that when they first heard that song, the whole family felt deeply happy in their hearts and embraced each other.
Thinh's voice and skilful techniques have also touched the hearts of audience members at his performances. — VNS