Viet Nam News
By Anh Thư
Parents and educators in HCM City are worried that the lack of quality children’s albums is forcing them to sing songs originally composed for adults.
But many children find the songs about love, money, and social troubles are more exciting than songs about childhood, school-days and friends.
Ten-year-old Trọng Nhân of Đà Lạt, winner of Vietnam’s Got Talent 2016, a version of American TV show, often performs songs meant for adults on his drums.
Two of his favourites are Ngọn Lửa Cao Nguyên (Flame of Central Highlands) by Trần Tiến and The Final Countdown by the Swedish-based rock band Europe.
While Ngọn Lửa Cao Nguyên depicts the spirit of Central Highlands’ culture and people, The Final Countdown is about conflicts in life and love.
His performance, with the support of rocker Đinh Tuấn Khanh, aired live on Việt Nam Television’s VTV3 in May. It has attracted more than 2.8 million viewers on YouTube, including the US-based rock band Avenged Sevenfold.
Though Nhân admitted that he liked playing songs about serious issues, including love, Nhân said his true interest was family, friends, online games and comics.
“I think Nhân plays songs written for adults because the songs aren’t hard to do for a young talent like him, who began playing drums when he was four,” said violinist and music lecturer Hoàng Anh Tú of HCM City Music Conservatory.
A number of TV reality shows aimed at youth, such as The Voice Kids and Young Hit Young Beat, have discovered young talent.
These shows permit the young contestants to perform adult music as albums targeted at children and pre-teens are few and far between, with most containing old, boring stuff, while albums for teenagers and young adults are skilfully performed and packaged.
Biệt Tài Tí Hon (Child Talent), for example, one of the country’s favourite TV game shows, encourages kids to sing and play adult music.
Its youngest contestant, four-year-old Mai Nguyên Hoàng of Hà Nội performed a series of love songs. His performance on VTV3 last month garnered mixed reviews with audiences. He sang Tâm Anh’s Chuyện Tình Không Dĩ Vãng (Love without the Past) and Thái Thịnh’s Duyên Phận (Fate in Love).
“Hoàng’s so great. He was born to be a good singer,” said Trần Mai Khanh of HCM City, mother of a 10-year-old daughter and six-year-old boy.
Khanh said her kids liked singing Marry You and Grenade, both adult songs and performed by Bruno Mars. “I don’t think singing about love is a big deal for kids,” she added.
But primary school teacher Nguyễn Thị Tươi of HCM City said that many children on TV entertain adults.
“These kids are too young to join the industry by singing adult songs. It’s wrong,” she remarked.
“More effort is needed to change this attitude.”
Tươi and many teachers, educators and veteran performers are worried that kids performing in TV game shows are losing their childhood.
The few children’s albums in the market are copies or copies of copies of old albums. Many songs were released 30 years ago.
Musician Nguyễn Ngọc Thiện of the HCM City Musicians Association, said: "Most of the duplicates are alike, with the same songs, only different packaging or accompaniments.”
"A shortage of songs means children listen to -- even sing -- songs about loneliness and broken hearts, though they don’t have a clue what the lyrics are about,” he said.
Quality albums like Bố Là Tất Cả (Dad Is All) and Giấc Mơ Của Bé (My Dream) continue to sell like hotcakes 15 years after their first release.
In the past, talented musicians like Phạm Tuyên, Xuân Giao and Trịnh Công Sơn wrote songs for both children and adults. Their songs like Cô Giáo Vùng Cao (A Highlands Teacher) and Em Là Hoa Hồng Nhỏ (I’m a Small Rose) were released in the 1980s and are still popular among kids.
In fact, young music producers prefer to make albums for adults because of the misconception that children also enjoy such music.
Nguyễn Minh Hưng, father of two pre-teen daughters and a resident of Đồng Nai Province’s Biên Hòa City, said: "I don’t want my kids to listen to love songs. We need new songs about our country, schools, friends, environment and animals."
Thiện agreed, saying young musicians must spend more time composing songs suitable for children and pre-teens and songs that celebrate childhood.
According to Psychologist Lê Minh Nga, vice principal of HCM City’s Pedagogy College, today’s children are more burdened with concerns and issues than their parents had at a similar age. They have had much more exposure to Western lifestyles through music, films and books, and are sometimes overwhelmed by what they see, hear and read.
"Therefore, it is critical that children have access to quality music albums appropriate for their age," she said.
Cultural authorities and social organisations working with TV, film and music producers to create children’s productions are urging teachers and parents to spend more effort on guiding their children in selecting healthy and appropriate music.
"I think music for children is a promising product for the entertainment industry," said young musician Lê Hùng of the Phú Nhuận Cultural House, adding that more music competitions and festivals should be launched to encourage musicians to turn their attention to children’s music. VNS