by Moc Mien
The launch of Lan Song Xanh (Green Wave Award), one of the nation's greatest music awards, in the late 1990s marked a huge milestone.
Prior to that, Vietnamese people knew about pure Vietnamese music, before the Chinese, western, Japanese and Korean music penetrated the country.
It was also the first time the concept of the "diva" was introduced in Viet Nam. Singers Thanh Lam, Hong Nhung, My Linh, and Tran Thu Ha are considered the four Vietnamese divas who rule the hearts of most music fans.
Recently, the press and Vietnamese fans argued aggressively about a comment made by singer Tran Thu Ha on her Facebook page. She said, "When the trio of Thanh Lam, Hong Nhung and My Linh were 'vedettes' on many significant stages in Ha Noi, Thu Phuong was just known in night clubs."
Singer Thu Phuong used to be very popular in the early 2000s, but her career was affected when she moved to the United States. She was banned from returning and performing in Viet Nam for a long time. Last year, she returned to her home country when the ban was lifted and regained her fame. She has been winning the hearts of music fans with sweet, soothing and emotional songs.
Singer Tran Thu Ha's comment was a shock to fans of Thu Phuong, given that in the recent live show "The Master of Symphony," the four divas and Thu Phuong shared the same stage.
"Singer Thu Phuong has a beautiful voice that has subtle layers," Phan Van Tuan, 35, said. He said, "During The Master of Symphony show, Thu Phuong performed wonderfully. She is not any less outstanding than the other divas."
The term "diva" is often bestowed on a celebrated female singer, a woman of outstanding talent in the world of opera, and by extension, in theatre, cinema and popular music.
Divas must be those who initiate a new trend, movement and have great impact on the audience. The world has seen many divas including Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and Celine Dion.
In Viet Nam, the term "diva" is often used by the press, though there have been no contests, voting or announcements on that. Despite the media recognition, singers Thanh Lam, Hong Nhung, My Linh and Tran Thu Ha have never used the term "diva" for themselves.
"Singer Tran Thu Ha seems to be too proud when she says she deserves the title of 'diva' more than singer Thu Phuong. I don't like her way of speaking," Tran Thuy Duong, a fan of Thu Phuong, said.
Despite that, some fans support singer Tran Thu Ha. They understand that in the era of Lan Song Xanh, singers Thanh Lam, Hong Nhung and My Linh were celebrities of the music industry. They work in various music genres and styles, showcasing the most subtle and beautiful parts of their talents. They continue to exert strong influence today.
"They symbolise feminism in music. They are incomparable," Phan Quoc Huy, 32, said.
Singer Thu Phuong was known for her beautiful voice and unique style. She was also welcomed on many stages, but mostly in night clubs in Ha Noi. Several years after Lan Song Xanh's birth, Thu Phuong started to excel along with other artists such as singers Tran Thu Ha, Phuong Thanh and Lam Truong. Then she had to leave the limelight, while other singers continued to work on successful, especially electro, jazz and indie music, such as singer Tran Thu Ha. That's why she is called the fourth diva.
For a long time, the Vietnamese music industry didn't propose any candidates for the 'fifth diva' position. Pop stars such as My Tam, Ho Quynh Huong, Nguyen Thao, despite their huge fan following, still have not achieved the breakthroughs required that would put them on the 'diva' pedestal.
Looking back, the divas couldn't stay at their high levels throughout. They have, to some extent, climbed down from the heyday of their career. Despite this, singer Thanh Lam, 46, has been successful in passing on her passion and experience to singer Tung Duong, who should become the first divo in Viet Nam. Hong Nhung is still very professional in each of her projects. My Linh has set up a music academy where she is training younger generations. Only Tran Thu Ha is working hard to discover new ways of expressing music, because she is now working in both Viet Nam and the United States.
The public enjoys not only the talent of divas, but also expects their lifestyle to make an impact with activities such as social work, charity and initiating new music and cultural movements. This is especially so as Vietnamese music is strongly influenced by foreign ones and the contribution and lifestyle of the divas are more important than the title itself. Singer My Linh was probably right when she said, "Let's respect the choice of the public. They know who they love very much. The more I do in this business, the more I understand that everything has its own value, despite arguments or disagreement." — VNS