Trấn Quang Hải – Vietnamese Music in Exile since 1975 and Musical Life in
Vietnamese Music in Exile since 1975 and Musical Life in
Vietnam since Perestroika
The exile of some millions of Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon in 1975 gave birth to a new type of music outside of Vietnam. Traditional music has been in regression because of the lack of interest among youngsters. Pop music, on the other hand, is flourishing, especially in the United States, whe-re there is a big concentration of Vietnamese emigrants. Contemporary music in the Western idiom is in its early stages. In Vietnam, pop music has come back since around 1990, with perestroika. Traditional music has also gained in popularity due to the efforts made by the Institute of Musicology (Vi?n Âm nh?c) in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, and thanks to a number of festivals organized in main cities.
Twenty-eight years have gone by since the fall of Saigon. Twenty-eight years during which many political, economical, and artistic events have changed the face of the history of humanity in general and that of Vietnamese history in particular. In terms of music, it has only been outside of Vietnam, notably among members of the exile community, that an exceptional development in quantity can be observed. Thousands of new music and video cassettes of pop music, as well as revivals of theater pieces, have been issued by twenty or so producers in America. These producers, who are centered in California (more precisely, in the area of Orange County nicknamed “Little Saigon”) and in Europe (especially in Paris) have flooded the market with cassettes reserved for Vietnamese refugees.
In the framework of this article, the author will offer with some brief information on the musical activities in the Vietnamese community since April 30, 1975, the date of the fall of Saigon and the beginning of the major departure into exile of several hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, as well as some comments on musical life in Vietnam since perestroika.
Four themes will be discussed:
1. The survival of traditional music (Nhac cô truyên)
2. The development of new music (Tân nhac)
3. The beginning of a contemporary western-style music (Nhac cân dai Tây Phuong)
4. Musical life in Vietnam since perestroika.
1. The Survival of Traditional Music (nhac co truyen)
Traditional music has long been treated as a poor parent in relation to westernized music. Before April 1975, at the National Conservatory of music in Saigon, classes of traditional instruments and arts did not attract many students . Professors of traditional music had an inferiority complex in relation to professors of western music.
The Vietnamese refugees who now live abroad have been generally too busy setting up their new lives to have the time to appreciate the sound of the zither dàn tranh or to attend performances of the revived theater form of hat cai l?ong. Children who arrived abroad when they were ten years of age are now 35 years old. They are really quite indifferent towards Vietnamese culture. They hardly speak their native language and prefer listening to Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Céline Dion and others, because for them it is the music of their present world.
Performances of modernized theater hát cai luong, concerts of traditional music are less and less numerous because of lack of spectators. Parents do not encourage children to attend Vietnamese concerts or theater performances , which are boring for youngsters who understand Vietnamese less and less, and tickets are expensive.
Based in Paris, only Tran Quang Hai and Bach Yen have presented Vietnamese traditional music in France and throughout the world since 1966 at public concerts, school concerts, lectures and lecture recitals at universities and museums, and at international festivals of traditional music. (1) They have given more than 2,700 concerts and have participated in 130 international music festivals in 60 countries. You can find their activities on three websites : www.tranquanghai.net, www.tranquanghai.org, and tranquanghai.phapviet.com .
Among refugee Vietnamese artists, there are notably three performers or ensembles: Phuong Oanh and her Phuong Ca group (“The Phoenix Song”), Hoi Nghê Si Ty Nan (Association of Refugee Artists of Paris) and Quynh Hanh, musician and ethnomusicologist.
Phuong Oanh, ex-teacher of zither at Hoa Sim school in Saigon, arrived in France in 1976. She founded her Phuong Ca ensemble with the intention of simultaneously creating a traditional Vietnamese music school in Europe. She has been able gather together about forty girls and young people who play the 16-stringed zither quite well. Her work has had a favorable echo among the young Vietnamese because the goal of Phuong Oanh is to combine Vietnamese traditional music with western harmony to cre-ate a kind of westernized music.
The Association of Refugee Artists of Paris was cre-ated in that city in
1986 by H?u Ph??c, a celebrated renovated theater actor who died in 1998. It has gathered together a number of renowned artists such as Kiêu Lê Mai, Hà My Liên, Phuong Thanh, Minh Duc, Kim Chi, Minh Thanh, and Hoàng Long. Huu Phuoc attempted to bring new life to the theatrical arts of South Vietnam and has received support f-rom the Vietnamese community in France.
Quynh Hanh arrived in France in the late 1980s. In France she was a musician of the 16-stringed zither dàn tranh and the monochord dàn dôc huyên. She studied musicology at the University of Paris (Sorbonne) and currently she is preparing a Ph.D. thesis in musicology on the Vietnamese monochord. She has taught Vietnamese music and has given concerts in France and Europe.
In the United States, other artists have been making efforts to preserve Vietnamese traditional music. The flutist Nguyên Dình Nghia and his children arrived in the United States in 1984 and have lived since then in Virginia. They have given concerts at some American universities. Nguyên Dình Nghia, known for his original interpretation of the musical piece “Phung Vu˜” (Dance of the Phoenix), pursues his own research in recreating the suspended xylophone trung and the lithophone dàn dá f-rom stones found in the United States.
Bích Thuân, a famous renovated theater actress, arrived in France in 1983 but since 1985 has spent her time between the United States and France. She has not had success in gathering around her talented artists in exile to form a theater troupe like that in Saigon before the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. She participates f-rom time to time in artistic shows and gives some lessons of sung poetry to Vietnamese music lovers.
Viêt Hùng (deceased in 2001), with the actor Minh Chí co-founder of the theater troupe Hoa Sen, arrived in the United States in 1975 and has organized performances of modernized theater hát caii luong. Hùng Cuong, one of the most famous actors of renovated theater in Saigon, went to the United States in 1982, whe-re he changed fields to pop music. After brief success, he dubbed Chinese movies into Vietnamese and toured around the world to perform for Vietnamese communities. He died in 1998. Dung Thanh Lâm, a famous actor in Saigon, settled in America after a brief period of success in Paris. Since then he has earned his living with theater. Since early 2000, he has produced several CDs and videos of well-known plays of modernized theater in California and has received growing support f-rom the Vietnamese public.
La Thoai Tân, much appreciated in Saigon for his acting talent, has played the role of master of ceremonies for different shows in America. He is a refined instrumentalist of traditional Vietnamese music . He also lends his voice to dub some Chinese movies in California. Kim Tuyên, a renowned modernized theater actress, finally stopped performing on stage. She now sings at Vietnamese cabarets and has come to be known as a pop singer for the past ten years.
Other artists f-rom Vietnam such as Hà My Hanh, Thiên Trang, Bích Liêu have lead quiet artistic lives.
Lu Liên, father of famous artists like Bích Chiêu, Khánh Hà, Tuân Ngoc and the pop group The Up Tight, arrived in the United States in May of 1975. He participated in shows in America and in Europe. Now he is retired f-rom artistic life and has begun a new life as a songwriter. The actor Xuân Phát is no longer artistically active.
Huong Lan, actor Huu Phuoc’s daughter, is at the present time one of the most popular actresses among Vietnamese artists outside of Vietnam. She is the best actress of the modernized theater because her voice is the harmonious mixture of the two famous voices of theater, Út Bach Lan and Thanh Nga. Since her arrival in France in 1978, her plans for the theater have not worked out. She then moved to pop music and she has become known as the best pop singer of Vietnamese modern music. She has sung in cabarets and at shows organized for Vietnamese communities in Europe. In 1985 she left France for the United States and became the most demanded artist among the Vietnamese community. She has returned to Vietnam several times since the past five years and performed with Vietnamese artists in Vietnam for video productions .
Phong Nguyên, ethnomusicologist and Vietnamese music specialist, received a doctor’s title in musicology after his studies in Paris. He went then to the United States and started as a music researcher and teacher at Kent University (Ohio). He has written articles on Vietnamese music in the Garland Dictionary of Music (1998) and in New Grove’s Dictionary of Music (2001), and he has published books and CDs on Vietnamese music. He cre-ated a World Center of Traditional Music together with Terry Miller, a specialist of Southeast Asian music and professor of music at Kent University.
Two “stars” of modernized theater, Phuong Mai and Thành Duoc, began by living in Germany as refugees. Phuong Mai, “queen of Chinese style theater Hô Quang,” had difficulty earning a living, as she looked for performances. She experienced a certain success while singing in cabarets. She then emigrated to the United States to restart her career in Vietnamese show business. In 1995 she went back to Vietnam and collaborated with artists of the country to make video productions on Chinese-style theater, of which she was considered the best actress. After moving move to Germany in 1984, Thành Duoc made musical tours in Europe, Australia and the United States. In spite of his reputation as an excellent theater actor, he could not obtain the same results among the Vietnamese abroad . After ten years in France, he left Europe for the United States, whe-re he opened a restaurant in San Jose, California, to earn his living, thus definitely leaving the world of theater.
27 years f-rom now, Vietnamese modernized theater will probably have fallen into oblivion. Traditional music could probably survive longer but to a lower level, because young Vietnamese have turned toward western pop music or the new Vietnamese westernized music.
2. The Development of New Music (Tân nhac)
The departure of many artists f-rom Vietnam in May of 1975 marked the beginning of the development of exile music. This music, c-haracterized by pop songs, can be divided into several themes:
1. Nostalgia for the country, nostalgia for Saigon (1975-1977) with songs evoking lost memories, such as “Vinh Biêt Saigon” (Farewell Saigon) by Nam Lôc (1976) and “Saigon niêm nho không tên” (Saigon, Nostalgia without Name) by Nguyên Dình Toàn (1977).
2. Resistance and struggle for the reconquest of the country (1978-1981) in songs composed by Pham Duy (“Hát trên duong tam dung” / Songs on the Road of Exile, 1978), songs of struggle by Nguyêt Ánh (“Em nho màu co” / I Remember the Colors of the Flag, 1981); “Duoi co phuc quôc” / Under the Flag of the Reconquest of the Country, 1981), and songs by Viêt Dzung (“Luu Vong Khuc” / Melodies of the Exile, 1980; “Kinh ty nan” / Prayers of Refugees, 1981), etc.
3. Description of prisoners’ lives in Vietnam, found in a compilation of 20 songs by Pham Duy based on poems written by Nguyên Chí Thiên (“Nguc Ca” / Songs of Jail, 1981) and melodies by the poet-musician Hà Thúc Sinh (“Tiêng Hát tui nhuc” / The Song of Shame, 1982), etc.
4. Rebirth of prewar songs (1982-1985), with thousands of cassettes recording voices of male singers (Elvis Phuong, Duy Quang, Chê Linh) and female singers (Khánh Ly, Lê Thu, Thanh Thúy, Thanh Tuyên, Huong Lan, Julie Quang) well known to the Vietnamese; these revive memories of the golden age of Saigon.
5. Birth of the Hung Ca movement (since 1985) gathered around ten young composers, including Hà Thúc Sinh, Nguyên Huu Nghia, Nguyêt Ánh, Viêt Dzung, Phan Ni Tân,Nguyên Công Anh, Châu Dinh An and Khúc Lan. They have composed new songs on different themes: struggle, resistance, and love, and this movement works to collect and preserve some new songs.
6. Development of “new wave” music and of Chinese serials music (since 1986), with about one hundred cassettes on these kinds of music (“top hit” western songs and music of Hong Kong and Taiwan movies with Vietnamese lyrics).
7. Diffusion of songs composed in Vietnam among Vietnamese communities overseas (since 1997). This new Vietnamese pop music has been developed in Vietnam, and many of its artists have become well known abroad. The overseas Vietnamese are interested in the newly composed songs and the young artists of Vietnam because they like to listen to another musical source and to discover new artistic faces. Vietnamese refugees are allowed to go back to Vietnam on vacation, whe-re they discover new songs and new artists. This contact permits the export of music to foreign countries whe-re the Vietnamese diaspora now lives.
Among exiled Vietnamese composers, Pham Duy remains the best-known composer. His songs written before 1975 represent 90% of new cassettes and CDs produced abroad. All singers have had at least one song written by Pham Duy in their repertoire. His newer songs, written since 1978 on the situation of exile and on life deprived of freedom in Vietnam, have received a good response. Since 1985 he has composed less but rather has written Vietnamese lyrics for western pop songs. In the year 2000, he was allowed to return to Vietnam for one month to see his native country for the first time after 25 years of exile.
Hoàng Thi Tho (deceased recently) composes less and directs a television program recently intended to Vietnamese in California.
Lam Phuong, a famous South Vietnamese composer, arrived in the United States in 1975, moved to Paris in 1980, then returned to the United States in 1995. He has composed new songs regularly on Saigon with such themes as nostalgia (1975-80) and love (since 1981).
A few composers like Tu Công Phung, Vu Thành An, Linh Phuong, Châu Dình An, Lê Dinh have continued to write new songs. Other renowned Vietnamese musicians like Van Phung (deceased in 1999) Tô Huyên Vân, Ngoc Bích (deceased in 2001) , Anh Viêt, Huynh Anh, Song Ngoc, Trân Van Trach (deceased in 1994), Xuân Lôi, Xuân Tiên, Trinh Hung, Pham Manh Cuong, Nghiêm Phú Phi, Lê Trong Nguyên (deceased in 2004) have ended their careers as composers, for all intents and purposes.
On the other hand, a new generation of young composers has been born abroad. In the United States, Nguyêt Anh (known only since 1980), Viêt Dzung, Châu Dình An, Phan Kiên, Huynh Công Anh, and Khuc Lan all belong to the Hung Ca movement. They have written songs on themes of struggle and resistance: Duy Quang on problems of exile; Lê Uyên Phuong (died in 2000) on boat people; Hà Thúc Sinh on penitentiary conditions in Vietnam; and Duc Huy on love. Trinh Nam Son has written many songs in Vietnamese and in English. Ngô Thuy Miên is one of the best known in Vietnam before 1975 and has stille composed new songs appreciated by the Vietnamese communities overseas . Other young composers include: Nguyên Huu Nghia, Phan Ni Tân, Trong Nghia in Canada, Hàn Lê Nhân, Phan Van Hung (now in Australia), Lê Khac Thanh Hoài, Ngô Minh Khánh, Bao Trâm (now in Canada), Trang Thanh Trúc (in France), Nguyên Quyêt Thang (in the Netherlands), Hoàng Ngoc Tuân, Pham Quang Ngoc,Pham Quang Tuân, Cung Dàn Nguyên Si Nam (Australia), and Vo Ta Hân (Singapore). Together, they have all written thousands of new songs on present problems, on their aspirations, on the resistance. Poet-writers such as Hà Thúc Sinh (United States) and Duyên Anh (France, died in 1998) began to compose songs using their own poems.
Many musicians have continued to work thanks to official receptions, tours, and recordings on cassettes (until 1988), then on CDs (since 1990) and laser discs (for karaoke since 1995) and DVDs (since 1999). Of special mention are: Lê Van Thiên, Trung Nghia, Hô Xuân Mai, Nghiêm Phú Phi (arrived in the United States in 1984), Dan Tho, Ngoc Chánh, Lê Van Khoa, Tùng Giang, Thu Hô (died in 2000), Pham Vinh, Vô Thuong in the United States, Vo Duc Tuyêt (died in 1992), Xuân Vinh, Trân Vinh, Ngô Minh Khanh, Van Tân Si, and Van Tân Phat in France.
Since the year of 2001, some groups of non professional composers like Nhac Viêt, Mai Duc Vinh Em Ca Hat on the internet have contributed many new songs composed on poems . They have written songs during their leisure time. They represent a important force of song production . Of special mention are : Vo Ta Hân f-rom Singapore ; Lê Mông Nguyên, Trân Quang Hai, Quach Vinh Thiên, Trang Thanh Truc, Linh Chi, Nguyên Minh Châu, Mông Trang, Nguyên Linh Quang, Nguyên Quôc Khanh, Duy Thiên, Vu Thai Hoa f-rom France ; Jazzy Nguyên f-rom Germany ; Pham Anh Dung, Nguyên Bich, Hoàng Viêt Khanh, Nhât Vu, Nguyên Hiêu Anh, Nhu Thu Nguyên, Mai Duc Vinh f-rom Etats-Unis ; Pham Quang Tuân,Phan Van Hung , Quach Nam Dung f-rom Australia ; Trân Thuy Minh, Minh Thao, Nguyên Công Hung f-rom Norway ; Mai Anh Tuân, Bao Trâm f-rom Canada etc….)
Pop groups known in Saigon, such as CBC, Dreamers (children of the composer Pham Duy), Up Tight (children of the musician Lu Liên), Crazy Dogs (children of the actor Viêt Hung), Family Love in the United States, and Blue Jet in France continued to play abroad until 1990. New pop groups have been formed by young musicians to answer the needs of cabarets and dances held for Vietnamese in the United States, France, Canada, and Australia.
Among singers known in Vietnam, Khanh Ly remains a Vietnamese figure of pop songs among the Vietnamese community abroad in spite of less publications in CDs, cassettes, and videos since 1995.She has appeared on all stages in countries whe-re live the exiled Vietnamese. Lê Thu, Thanh Thuy, Thanh Tuyên, Huong Lan, Julie Quang (the last is now called simply Julie), Khanh Ha are among renowned singers until 1988. Ai Vân, Hoa Mi are popular among Vietnamese communities and the young talents such as Nhu Quynh, Thanh Ha, Dalena, Linda Trang Dai, Manh Dinh are at the present time the most popular singers.
Many cabarets and nightclubs bear names recalling old Saigon such as “Ritz,” “Saigon Cabaret,” “Tu Do,” “Queen Bee,” and the “Majestic” in the United States, or “Dêm Mau Hông” and “Las Vegas” in France. All these dancing places attract exiled Vietnamese who look for one moment of distraction to forget difficulties of life through steps of dance. Orchestras, therefore, only play some old and known songs. Few new compositions are included in the repertoire of cabaret singers. Dances like slow, tango, cha-cha-cha, pasodoble, rock, bolero are the most favorite ones.
Several productions houses (Asia, Nguoi Dep Bình Duong, Lang Van, Diêm Xua, Hai Âu, Giang Ngoc, Tu Quynh, Mai Ngoc Khanh, Thê Gioi Nghê Si, etc…)have appeared in the United States and publish a great number of cassettes and CDs. In Paris there exist three big houses of productions (Thuy Nga Productions are the more known and most productive). The video movies on Vietnamese songs have obtained some success since 1990.
Big shows have progressed since 1986, thanks to shows organized to collect money to help “boat people” and to help Vietnamese in distress in Vietnam, etc.
Since 1990, a tremendous development of CD productions on Vietnamese popsongs f-rom composers living in Vietnam with new Vietnamese popstars like Thanh Lam, Phuong Thanh, Lam Truong, Dan Truong, Anh Tuyêt, Hông Nhung, Hông Hanh, My Linh, Quang Linh, etc… has invaded the Vietnamese discographic market overseas .
3. Beginnings of Western Contemporary Classical Music (Nhac cân dai Tây Phuong)
In addition to the few Vietnamese composers of contemporary music living already for a long time in France such as Nguyên Van Tuong (died in 1996), Nguyên Thiên Dao , Tôn Thât Tiêt ( composer of music for 3 films “Odeur de la papaye verte”, “Cyclo”, “A la verticale de l’été” directed by Trân Anh Hung), Truong Tang (died in 1989), Trân Quang Hai, and Cung Tiên in the United States, some young Vietnamese composers have also emerged. In Australia, the guitarist Hoàng Ngoc Tuân, gold medal winner of the 1978 music festival in Vietnam and author of more than 500 new songs, left Vietnam in 1982 by the sea and received a research grant to prepare his Ph.D. dissertation on Vietnamese folk songs. He wrote some modern arrangements for traditional songs in a new style. Nguyên Manh Cuong won a composition prize at the Asia Pacific Festival and Composers Conference in December, 1984, in New Zealand on the basis of his composition “Phung Vu” (The Dance of Phoenix). Since 1985, he has continued to compose electronic music in Sydney (Australia). Lê Tuân Hung obtained his Ph.D. degree in Ethnomusicology at Monash University in Melbourne and has composed new music mixing Vietnamese musical instruments and Western contemporary compositions. He has published 4 CD since 1992. Phan Quang Phuc earned a doctorate of music at the University of Michigan and has taught composition at Indiana University (Illinois, USA). He is considered to be one of the six most talented young composers in the United States and won the Prize of Rome in 1998.
Among interpreters of western classical music, the guitarist Trinh Bach is the only one who has reached an international level of performance. Having arrived in New York in 1975 at the age of 13, he is now considered one of the best guitarists in the world. Several excellent young Vietnamese musicians have pursued their studies at conservatories of music in Sydney, Paris and the United States.In 2001, Van Hung Cuong, a Vietnamese pianist, won the world piano competition organized by the American Music Scholarship Association in New York (USA).
4. Musical Life in Vietnam Since Perestroika
Since perestroika policies began there, many foreign tourists have been visiting Vietnam, instigating a new dimension to the musical life of that country. Many hotels and restaurants for tourists hire musicians of traditional music to entertain their new customers. Spectacles of traditional music offer to tourists some aspects of the musical culture of the country. Instead of presenting the authentic music, though, musicians play westernized folk music to please European tastes. Because of the economical necessity, traditional artists have done this for money and have neglected aspects of art and tradition.
Many groups of artists like Tre Xanh, Phu Dông have been sent abroad to participate in festivals or to present concerts to the exiled Vietnamese. Inside of the country, though, the emphasis is on pop music, as young singers turn toward the west. They dress like European pop singers on stage, imitate them and sing fashionable foreign songs (Western, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese). Since 1995, many singers namely Thanh Lam, My Linh, Hông Nhung, Hông Hanh, Anh Tuyêt, Thanh Phuong, Câm Vân, Lam Truong, Dan Truong, Quang Linh, etc… have become famous inside and outside of the country. They can earn up to 20,000 US dollars per month with shows and recordings .
The rebirth of modernized theater (Hat Cai Luong) since 1990 in Ho Chi Minh City and the southern part of Vietnam has enabled young artists like Ngoc Huyên, Tài Linh, Vu Linh, Kim Tu Long, Ngoc Giàu, Bach Tuyêt, Lê Thuy, Minh Phung to earn more money and have a better life. A new kind of comic theater (Tâu Hài) appeared at the beginning of the 90’s and has become popular with productions of video cassettes and DVD. Some actors like Bao Quôc, Minh Nhi, Thành Lôc, Lê Vu Câu, Huu Châu, etc..; and actresses like Hông Nga, Hông Vân, Ngoc Giàu are well known in Vietnam and also among the Vietnamese abroad .
In spite of this disappointing aspect, some excellent festivals of traditional music take place, namely the Lullaby Festival, modernized Theater Festival, Theater Song contest, the Traditional Theater Festival, etc.
Composers for film music have been more and more after the unification of the country since 1976. Other composers like Trong Bang, Dàm Linh, Hoàng Vân, Dang Huu Phuc, Trong Dài have contributed to film music in Vietnam. Contemporary music with concertos, symphonies has been developed in Vietnam with some famous composers like Dô Hông Quan, Nguyên Thi Nhung, Hoàng Duong, Hoàng Cuong, Nguyên Phuc Linh, Vu Nhât Tân . Composers for pop songs can be cited such as Bao Chân, Phu Quang, Bao Phuc, Trân Tiên, etc…
Compositions for orchestra with traditional musical instruments (16 stringed zither, monochord, moon shaped lute, 2 stringed fiddle, bamboo transverse flute) and Western orchestra occupy an important place in musical creations in Vietnam nowadays .
In Hanoi over the past 30 years, the Institute of Musicology has carried out thousands of field work projects on the tribal music of 53 minorities. In addition to the collection stored in archives f-rom 1956 to 1995, 34 field work projects have been carried out since 1996 throughout the country, f-rom the mountainous regions in the north to the highlands in the central region and some provinces in the south. Stored in the Sound Archives of the Institute of Musicology are 8,850 pieces of instrumental music and nearly 18,000 folksongs performed by more or less 2,000 performers. Since 1995, with revisions in working methods, open and dynamic mechanisms based on the current situation have abolished the passive role of scientific research. The Institute of Musicology now has qualified collaborators in the entire country to carry out projects f-rom the grassroots to the ministry level and up to the national level.
In January of 1999, this Institute of Musicology opened a showroom of 130 Vietnamese musical instruments f-rom 54 ethnic groups belonging to four categories of classification: chordophones, idiophones, aerophones, and membranophones. Each instrument in the showroom is introduced in printed descriptions and audio and visual recordings. Of particular note, the showroom also displays many ancient musical instruments such as the lithophone, bronze drum, big drum with elephant skin of the Ede ethnic group, sets of gongs, etc. In addition to providing visual education, the displayed objects and musical instruments are also demonstrated in a lively way.
Thousands of technology products in the form of audio CD, video CD, and videotapes featuring performances on folk music have been released.In addition, the Institute of Musicology has held symposiums and seminars on diverse and practical themes such as the Vietnamese lithophone, gongs of the central highlands of Vietnam, etc. In 1998, the Institute of Musicology held a scientific meeting on “Reviewing a process of training, preserving and promoting Vietnamese traditional music.” More than 30 papers of a high scientific quality were presented. The research department of the Institute of Musicology is well equipped with modern apparatus that can help to restore and preserve traditional music and folk songs on compact discs for the longer and better conservation of sound documents. Thanks to these demonstrations, many scientific books on music and traditional songs have been published. This Institute of Musicology has many young researchers like Hinh Phuoc Long (Cham music), Duong Bich Hà (traditional music f-rom Central Vietnam), Kiêu Tân (traditional music f-rom South Vietnam), Vo Thanh Tung (Vietnamese musical instruments with a publication of a CD Rom and an important book on that subject), Nông Thi Nhinh (folk music of the Tay, Nung, Dao tribes f-rom North Vietnam), Kpa Ylang (Bahnar music f-rom the Highlands) Romah Del (Jarai music f-rom the Highlands)
In Vietnam, the research on traditional music has been developed rapidly . Many senior reasearchers have contributed to enrich this field with hundreds of publications (books, CD, films). Prof. Nguyên Huu Ba (deceased) Lê Thuong (deceased), Luu Huu Phuoc (deceased in 1989), Duc Nhân, Lê Huy, Huy Tran, Tu Ngoc (deceased) Dô Minh, Vu Nhut Thang, Dang Hoành Loan, Thúy Loan, Tô Vu, Lu Nhât Vu, etc… are among the best known in Vietnam .
A center of research on the preservation of court music was cre-ated in Huê in 1996 thanks to the help of Japan and has been under Prof. Trân Van Khê ’s supervision .
For the last 7 years (since 1995), many artists of folk theaters and pop singers living in Vietnam have performed abroad at international music festivals or in America, Asia, Australia, and Europe whe-re Vietnamese refugees have settled in . Since 1999, a great number of Vietnamese Oversea artists like Huong Lan, Phuong Mai, Elvis Phuong, Hoài Linh, Dalena, etc… have been back to Vietnam many times to perform with other artists in Vietnam. This musical exchange has contributed to facilitate the relationship between Vietnamese artists outside/inside .
This summary gives a general view on Vietnamese musical life abroad and a short summary of some aspects of musical activities inside the country. Music continues to evolve, but is it towards enrichment or poverty? The answer is not yet known.
Trần Quang Hải
(1) Performances for young people have included: Rikskonsertene in Norway, Jeunesses Musicales de France in France, Jeunesses Musicales de Belgique in Belgium, and the Jeunesses Musicales de Suisse in Switzerland. Altogether, Trân Quang Hai and Bach Yên have participated in more than one hundred international music festivals in 60 countries.
(2) Other musicians have changed professions since leaving Vietnam, such as Trân Anh Tuân (formerly professor of mandolin at the National Conservatory of Music in Saigon , now a piano tuner in Paris), Trân Vinh (formerly a saxophonist, now retired and living outside of Paris ), and Van Phung (earlier a composer who was employed at an American airlines and who died in 1999)