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Worth listening, worth reading

Update: February, 14/2018 - 09:00
Multitalented: Besides being the album’s arranger, Quang also performed the tunes. VNS Photo Thúy Hằng
Viet Nam News

by Thúy Hằng

Patrons of art and culture may have more options to enjoy them with the release of some significant products, including a music album and an interactive book. 

Known for his music productions that are inspired by Vietnamese folk music, Vietnamese traditional artist Ngô Hồng Quang has recently introduced his newest album Nam Nhi (Being a Man), which is a ‘marriage’ between the Vietnamese UNESCO heritage quan họ (love duet) folk songs and the Western string quintet.

The idea for the album was conceived by Quang nearly two years ago, before he concluded a master’s course on contemporary composing at the Royal Conservatory of Den Haag in the Netherlands.

“I just wanted to do something before my graduation. So, having had a special love for quan họ for years, I decided to choose this music genre,” Quang said.

Together with help from composer and folk music researcher Nguyễn Quang Long, Quang selected 10 folk songs to start with, of which a few are his childhood favourites.

The artist, who can sing and play several traditional Vietnamese music instruments, was very excited with this project. Working tirelessly, within just two weeks, Quang completed the music arrangement for all the songs in the quintet.

“In my opinion, these songs present the quintessence of this genre. With the new music arrangement, here is the string quintet. I just wanted to represent those familiar tunes in a new and fresh musical context,” the 35-year-old artist said.

For fans of quan họ, the combination with Western string instruments will be a fresh touch on the already-so-familiar melodies, and for those new to quan họ, it can be an interesting exploration.

Love for music: Vietnamese traditional artist Ngô Hồng Quang, who is known for his music productions inspired by Vietnamese folk music. Photo courtesy of the artist

Quang decided to name the album after the title of a song in the album because “there is a special connection between this song and the music path that I am walking on,” he said.

“Like its lyrics, roughly translated, a man should live fast, enjoy life just to be a worthy man’, I want to be free to do whatever I wish to do, without any constraint,” he said.  

Besides being the album’s arranger, Quang also is the one who has performed the tunes.

“Luckily, I have a perfect pitch that makes me extremely sensitive about sound, especially, about vocal music. In addition to this, I know my voice is not bad. And this is not the first time I am singing,” he said. 

Though Quang has not attended any vocal class, he considers this an advantage.

“Without any trained skill, I can sing naturally. The naturalness is something that I always require for my music production,” he said.

However, Quang has faced difficulties while singing the traditional songs.

“I did not keep the original singing style of these songs, but still strictly followed the conditionings of the lyrical expressions that only exist in northern Việt Nam. However, most of these songs were sung by female artists, so, in the beginning, it was a bit difficult to sing with my voice,” the artist said.

To form the quintet consisting of two violins, one viola, one cello and a double bass, Quang has invited international artists, who are also his schoolmates at the Royal Conservatory. The artists are from different countries, including Greece, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and Turkey.

Also, as the recording and mixing engineer is from India, and I am from Việt Nam, it can be said this album is an international product,” Quang said.  

According to Quang, before joining the Vietnamese artist for the album, all these international artists did not know much about Việt Nam and its music

“They were very enthusiastic when I told them about the project. All of them wished to learn about another culture through its music, so they accepted my invitation to get involved in the album,” Quang said. 

The Vietnamese artist also firmly believes that inviting international artists to join such a music production can help introduce Vietnamese folk music to the world.

Before the official release of album Nam Nhi in Hà Nội, in the beginning of January, Quang has organised two mini concerts in HCM City, where he unveiled a few songs from the album. During these shows, Quang was accompanied by beat-boxer Trung Bảo, and musicians from the HCM City Conservatory of Music.

After the release in Việt Nam, Quang will continue to introduce the album abroad. The artist also revealed about his plan for a concert in the next few months.

Following album Nam Nhi, Quang will release another one, which is entitled Nhìn Lại (Restropect). The album will feature his new songs, of which music is by Quang, while the lyrics are based on poems by Prof Phan Lê Hà – a lecturer at Honolulu, Hawaii. The songs will be performed by Quang and songstress Hà Linh.

He also has plans to present another album by the end of this summer. The album will feature his new compositions, which he has recorded together with artists from Senegal and Iran.

Interactive book

Among the books that have been released recently, the one by freelance journalist Bùi Dũng, Film Book – Khi Chúng Ta Là Nhân Vật Chính (Film Book – When We Are Main Characters) is a magnet for many readers, thanks to its emotional stories.

The book is a collection of more than 80 articles that Dũng – a movie addict – created after watching famous and inspiring movies. They are not simply film review articles, but also about his thoughts and his feelings that he wishes to share with other people.

“Like my university was concluded with a thesis, this book is a ‘fruit’ of many years that I spent watching movies,” he said.

“Watching a movie just to laugh, cry, or simply to kill time is not satisfying or worthwhile. You must watch films that make you feel the winter is no longer gloomy, and the spring can bring more light and hope,” he added.

Watching movies is more than just a hobby for Dũng, because “it is the way I learn and look at myself, thus fulfilling whatever I have missed in my life”.

“The time that I spent sitting in dark rooms in cinema theatres, in cinema clubs or at film festivals has helped enlighten myself. Like literature, cinema helps to perfect each of us,” he said.

More than a normal book, Film Book is also the first interactive art book in Việt Nam that uses modern technology.

Inspiring read: More than a normal book, Film Book – Khi Chúng Ta Là Nhân Vật Chính (Film Book – When We Are Main Characters) is also the first interactive art book in Việt Nam that uses modern technology. Photo courtesy of Bùi Dũng
New tech: Author of the Film Book, freelance journalist Bùi Dũng. Photo courtesy of the author

Alongside the articles, the book also includes more than 20 illustrations, which also function as colouring drawings. Especially, six of those have used the augmented reality technology, which, according to Wikipedia, is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.

By using the Film Book application that you can download for free from App Store, when you scan any of those drawings, an extract of that movie will be played on your screen.

Actress Thanh Trúc said that the book has motivated her to watch movies she has never seen before.

Journalist Trần Thu Thủy, who was among the very first readers of Film Book, said she wished she had the book earlier so she would not have to search Google when depressed to find an interesting movie suited to her taste.

“The book is a hearty menu for a lavish movie feast created by Dũng – a sophisticated gourmet,” she commented.

Indeed, the book mentions ‘Menu’, instead of ‘Content as in other books. The menu presents articles which have been divided into different sections, including Inspiration for Life, Inspiration for Love, Inspiration for Work, Open the Cinema’s Door to Step out to the World, and Small Hints for Big Movies.

The author also gives recommendations on movies suited for every season. The movies are not only from Hollywood filmmakers, but also from lesser known cinema industries, such as Turkey, Iran, Singapore, Argentina, and Thailand.         

“All the movies I have watched and written about are inspiring and can bring positive energy to the audience, partly help change their view and fulfil their life. Depending on each person, he or she can colour their life with their favourite colours, and they can play the main character in the movie of their life,” Dũng said, explaining the title of his book. VNS

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