by Nguyen Thanh Ha
Concerns are still being raised by the public over the Voice Kids (live show series) which recently ended, but its champion Quang Anh, 12, and his runner-up, My Chi, 10, have dropped out of school to join in very busy performances.
Apart from worrying that these child singers are losing their childhoods, the public is also shocked over the unconfirmed rumour that Chi is paid about VND100 million (US$5,000) for a show.
But most important is whether or not the families and the managers of these singers are strictly obeying the Labour Code on employing minors, and how the culture ministry's Department of Art Performance will handle minors performing in show business, said lawyer Ly Dai Long from HCM City.
Nguyen Dang Chuong, head of the department, said performance licences will not be granted for minors, but when using child labourers, units, organisations, or individuals should sign a written labour contract with the child's representative, such as his or her parents or a guardian, and under the child's agreement.
Asked about solutions for child singers, Chuong said the family's role is very important. They should think very carefully before letting their child drop out of school to perform, to run after money, and to have a plan for their child to study while improving their musical talent.
"There are no organisers who would pull a child singing star into a circle of earning money over their studies at school," he said.
Music composer Tran Thanh Tung, who has been for many years in charge of managing music activities at HCM City's Children House, said he has managed many child groups, but "I always place the importance of their studies first. They are allowed to practice and perform on weekends or summer vacation."
Families of those children having musical or singing talent should not force them to perform for money. Discovered talents should be carefully trained to improve their abilities, Tung said.
One more important thing is that organisers and managers should choose a suitable song for each talented child to sing because, if not, it will much affect the development of their soul and body, he said.
Parents shouldn't let their children lose their childhoods as Michael Jackson did, said Tung. He quoted Jackie Jackson as saying that when his brother Michael was 3, his father held him upside down by the leg and beat him on his back and behind because he forgot to practise singing.
Michael's father Joseph Jackson created for the world a legendary singer, but he also forced his child to overwork just to meet his own ambition for money.
When he was alive, Michael admitted that he and his brothers were continuously beaten for reasons such as making a wrong dance step or for singing out of key when practising.
Responding to Chuong's ideas, the Cat Tien Sa Co, which signed a contract with Anh's family to manage the child's image, said the company will co-operate with his family to help him to continue studying at school and learn music at the HCM City Music Academy.
Apart from study, Anh can join one performance a weekend, said a company representative.
Meanwhile, the family of Chi's has found her a manager, Nguyen Thanh Huy, who will be in charge of planning and ensuring Chi's study while she is engaged in performing.
There are many children joining art troupes in big cities such as Ha Noi and HCM City. Many of these children are ensured of good results in their studies and musical performances, thanks to their families.
Dan Thu, 13, has performed with the city's District 1 Art Troupe since 4 and child art programmes on HCM City TV and Viet Nam TV, but only for charity, said Tung.
So far, Thu has released 10 albums of her own and regularly wins excellent study achievements.
Bao Ngu, 5, learned music at 3 and piano and dance at 4. She has won many prizes from the city's authorities.
To date she has released four albums, including her latest one titled Be Choi Long Den (Little Child Plays a Lantern) which was applauded by children and the public nationwide, said Tung.
Tung said the parents of Thu and Ngu know how to guide their children and keep them on the right track.
Ngu's father, musician Yen Lam, said his family has never forced his daughter to play at any performance if she doesn't want.
"We always encourage our child to study first and then help her to choose a suitable song for her to perform for the public. By doing so, we realise that we should carefully create a plan for our daughter's future," the musician said. — VNS