How should children's music be performed today?

August 16, 2020 - 08:22

Recently, I’ve come to realise that most kids around me are singing along with songs that are not age appropriate. When I heard it from my niece, I thought something must be done about it.


Illustration by Trịnh Lập

By An Phương

Recently, I’ve come to realise that most kids around me are singing along with songs that are not age appropriate. When I heard it from my niece, I thought something must be done about it.

I have a six-year-old niece who loves everything Disney-related. Most of the time, I see her in braided hair and princess costumes.

However, I’ve occasionally spotted my niece singing to songs with content that is not suitable for her age. Many of those songs are about heartbreak.

“To be honest, I was quite amazed at first and found my daughter to be hilarious singing along with popular V-pop songs,” my sister tells me.

“I even taught her how to dance to some of the songs as easy dancing tutorials can be found on Tik Tok,” she adds.

My sister’s openness about the issue has led me to think about whether children today should be given the freedom to express themselves. Or am I too old-fashioned to not accept the fact that they have crossed the limit?

“Despite my initial open feeling, I’m not comfortable seeing my daughter acting heartbroken. I know that she is too young to understand the lyrics but I’ve decided to take her iPad away,” my sister says.

Similar to my sister’s story, Thiên Thanh, a friend of mine, is very concerned about her 9-year-old-boy listening to foreign songs with erotic content.

“I think he’s learned those rap verses from his friends in schools. We don’t usually watch foreign content at home, so he must have been influenced by his peers,” Thanh says.

Taking a look back at my childhood which is 20 years ago, I grew up with songs such as Chú Voi Con ở Bản Đôn (Baby Elephant in Đôn Village), Búp Bê Kachiusa (Katyusha Doll), Tia Nắng Hạt Mưa (Sunray & Raindrop), and Đi Học (Going to School), among others.

“We didn’t have easy access to the Internet back then, so everything that we became familiar with was mostly taken from traditional media,” my sister says, adding that entertainment needs back then were not as focused as they are now.

Both my sister and Thanh admit that they couldn’t invest full time in their children as they have work to do.

“I would love to introduce my son to songs that I used to love when I was his age. However, my husband and I are too busy to do so,” Thanh says.

All of us agreed that in addition to breakthroughs in technology resulting in kid’s having easy access to different types of content, the lack of a "music playground” is another factor that has caused many kids today to lose interest in children's music.

According to Người Lao Động (The Labourer) newspaper, the children's music market has faced many challenges.

Even though Hồ Chí Minh City's cultural authority has organised several contests encouraging composers to create quality music pieces for children, reality has shown that children are not that interested in those pieces.

Composer Nguyễn Văn Chung, who recently received a Guinness Việt Nam record for releasing the most songs for children, with over 300 pieces, says the lack of a music playground has negatively affected the growth of new children's songs.

Meanwhile, journalist Lại Văn Sâm says the gap between the number of quality children music pieces and current demand has resulted in an increasing number of kids listening to adult songs.

That being said, I’ve witnessed some positive changes in the children's music market, not in the number of new songs produced but the fact that old songs are being revived and given a new life.

Baby Elephant in Đôn Village is a prime example. 

The remixed version of Baby Elephant in Đôn Village has been very popular on platforms such as Tik Tok and Facebook. It’s a familiar song. But how the little girl sings the song with a twist of modern pop rock has made Baby Elephant in Đôn Village addictive to listen to, my friend Hoàng Dũng says.

Con Muốn Về Nhà Lúc 5h (I Want to Be Home at 5 O'clock) and Hungry Belly are new songs that have been very much embraced by both children and adults.

"I Want to Be Home at 5 O'clock was just a cute song to me initially. As I went through the lyrics, I found it to be very realistic and gradually fell in love with the song," Dũng says, adding that many TikTokers have used this song for their posts, making it more viral.

Ever since first hearing I Want to Be Home at 5 O'clock, I have played it for my niece and she’s become obsessed!

With these examples, I’ve come to realise that in order for a children's song to stand out in the market, its content has to be relevant and the beat should be fun. 

Children's songs today do not necessarily have to always portray a “pink” image or convey deep values but should tell a realistic story that even an adult can feel connected to and play for their kids. 

Of course, there are multiple factors that can help promote children's songs. However, as composer Chung says, it's important to have a modern take on how to do them. VNS