20th and Early 21st Centuries - Popular Music
Tuyet A. N. Tran ©
Vietnamese popular music is a diverse genre that reflects several combinations
of ancient, modern, Vietnamese regional differences, and foreign influenced
concepts borne from the effects of forced and/or voluntary migration,
inter-racial unions due to a myriad of historical events occurred throughout
several centuries in Viet Nam. It would be disingenuous to box contemporary
popular Vietnamese music into one convenient category without considering
Vietnamese ethnic and cultural differences that existed over time. The
Vietnamese inherently cultural and ethnic differences woven with foreign
influences that produced a variety of popular music.
Vietnamese migration and/or travelling to all corners of the world began well over a century ago. Music was and still is the common vein that runs through all Vietnamese people regardless of their nationalities, ethnic mixtures and, background. What is considered as Vietnamese music had survived acculturation during the one thousand years rule under Chinese occupation followed by one hundred years of French colonial rule.
This section is by no means a sweeping study of contemporary popular music for that would be a sizeable undertaking. It is an introduction to a cross-sectional group of composers and musicians whose music are accessible to Asian and Western audience. Their diverse works are as much the byproducts of intrinsically Vietnamese regional, ethnic, and cultural differences as the foreign influences that shaped their musical thoughts and ideas.
These artists are but isolated representation of countless Vietnamese composers and musicians who continue to develop and flourish within and without Viet Nam. The selection is mindful of each artist's multicultural experiences and ethnic differences that invariably shaped her or his musical stories. Each artist brings her or his unique talent and personal thoughts to produce their musical visions.
"More Installments To Come 6/2001"
NGUYEN LE BIOGRAPHY:
Born 01/14/1959 in Paris of Vietnamese parents, he began to play drums at the age of 15, then took up guitar & electric bass. After graduating in Visual Arts, he majored in Philosophy, writing a thesis on Exoticism. Then he devoted himself to music, creating "ULTRAMARINE" (1983), a multi-ethnic band whose CD "DÉ" was considered "1989's best World Music album" (Philippe Conrath, Libération.)
Nguyên Lê is a self-taught musician with a wide scope of interests: rock & funk (Jim Cuomo, Madagascar tour 84), jazz standards & contemporary music (Yves Robert), electronic music (Andre Almuro, Tona Scherchen), ethnic music projects include African & Caribbean with ULTRAMARINE, Algerian with Safy Boutella, Indian with Kakoli, and Vietnamese with his "Dan Bau" (traditional one-stringed instrument) teacher Truong Tang.
In September 87 he was chosen by musical director Antoine Hervé to play with the O. N. J. (French National Jazz Orchestra). With this big band, he played with such musicians as Johnny Griffin, Louis Sclavis, Didier Lockwood, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Randy Brecker, Toots Thielemans, Courtney Pine, Steve Lacy, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gil Evans, and Quincy Jones.
In Sepember 89, he recorded ULTRAMARINE's 2nd album "DÉ", and in May 1990, his first album as a leader, "MIRACLES", recorded in the U.S.A. with Art Lande, Marc Johnson & Peter Erskine. At the same time he works with such musicians as Michel Portal, Miroslav Vitous, Trilok Gurtu, J. F. Jenny Clarke, Aldo Romano, Daniel Humair, Dewey Redman, Andy Emler, Jon Christensen, Nana Vasconcelos, Paolo Fresu ...
In May 92, after a month tour with Paul McCandless on winds, Art Lande (p), Dean Johnson (b) & Joel Allouche (d), he recorded his 2nd album, "ZANZIBAR".
Since January 93, he has been a frequent guest soloist with Köln's WDR Big Band, especially with composer / conductor Vince Mendoza. Nguyên Lê plays on three of his projects: "JAZZPANA", "SKETCHES" with Dave Liebman, Charlie Mariano and Peter Erskine, & "DOWNTOWN", with Russell Ferrante. In April 1994 he was invited to be the soloist of "The New Yorker", a suite written & directed by Bob Brookmeyer, with Dieter Ilg (b) & Danny Gottlieb (d). With these two musicians, he set up his new trio, and recorded his CD, "Million Waves" in December 94. Michel Contat, from Télérama writes about this CD: "This trio brings him to some musical spaces which he had not even imagined, & which are pure poetry."
In 1995 Nguyên Lê recorded "Tales from Viêt-Nam", a special project of Vietnamese music, with a 8-piece band combining jazz & traditional musicians. In the meantime, he played in trio with Michell Benita (b) and Peter Erskine, recorded on Michel Portal's new album with Ralph Towner (g), and worked with Ornette Coleman on one of his contemporary music pieces, "Freedom Statue". In June 95, he was invited by the WDR Big Band to play on "Azure Moon" with the YELLOW JACKETS and Vince Mendoza. In July 95, the Stuttgart Festival invited him to be one of the guitarists to celebrate the "Universe of Jimi Hendrix". Other participants included Trilok Gurtu, Terry Bozzio, Cassandra Wilson, Jack Bruce, Vernon Reid, David Torn, Victor Bailey, Pharaoh Sanders .... In Germany he worked with John McLaughlin & Markus Stockhausen.
In January 1997 Nguyên Lê recorded his album "Three Trios". It features the guitarist in three different settings including bassists Marc Johnson, Dieter Ilg and Renaud Garcia-Fons and drummers Peter Erskine, Danny Gottlieb and Mino Cinelu. Following the release of "Three Trios" Nguyên Lê toured in the USA, winning great critical acclaim for his concert in New York's legendary Birdland. In the fall of 1997 he joined Paolo Fresu's highly acclaimed new quartet. Together they recorded "Angel".
As early as 1992, Nguyên Lê had been working on projects with the Algerian singer Safy Boutella. 1997 the Franco-Vietnamese guitarist followed these traces deeper into the Maghreb. On "Meli Meli", Cheb Mami's most recent album (with Khaled, Algeria's most popular singer), Nguyên Lê not only played guitar, he also produced some of the songs. Finally, in early 1998 he asked Cheb Mami's drummer Karim Ziad to introduce him to the world of the Berbers and popular Algerian music. Once again he brought together a multicultural band with the Serbian pianist Bojan Zulfikarpasic, Austrian saxophonist Wolfgang Puschnig, Italian jazz musicians Paolo Fresu and Stefano Di Battista, the Berbersingers of B'net Houariyat, Cheb Mami himself, and two friends out of Lê's Vietnamese project; Huong Thanh and Hao Nhien. With them he recorded "Maghreb and Friends".
Le is an original and highly creative guitarist on an instrument where cliche can easily dominate, whether playing in a driving, rock or funk influenced style, in spacey effects-laden mode, or evoking the timbres and sound of traditional Vietnamese instruments. His guitar provides a highly malleable medium for all of those approaches, and seems a notably compatible choice of instrument.
Maghreb and Friends (1998), the guitarist explored another avenue long
implicit in his work, and one rooted in the famously eclectic Parisian
music scene, with its rich infusion of Pan-African musicians. Although
both of these projects employed larger groups, the guitarist often works
in a trio setting, but it is somehow typical of him that he has several
such trios rather than just one. He chose to feature three distinct
line-ups in his excellent Three Trios album in 1997, for example, and
described the resulting music as a suite in which each part featured
a different trio.
Note: Neils Lan's Danish mother is a former successful pop singer, his Vietnamese father is a medical doctor and an accomplished classical guitarists, and his brother is Chris Minh Doky. Chris Minh is one of the hottest and most sought after jazz bassists/-soloists by some of the world's biggest music legends. With great success, Chris Minh continually toured the globe performing and recording as a leader and with David Sanborn, Bill Evans, Trilok Gurtu, Randy Brecker, David Sylvian, Kirk Whalum, Al Jarreau, Michael & Randy Brecker, John Scofield, Toots Thielemanns, Dianne Reeves, Kenny Garrett, Jack DeJohnette, Ryuichi Sakamoto and numerous others. Hope to hear Chris Minh's rendition of Vietnamese music soon!
TOC NGAN PROJECTS:
With music these days seeming like an endless parade of glossy drones, Toc Ngan was bound to catch our attention, it is one of those album that is so different from the norm: verbally, musically and rhythmically. Toc Ngan 2 is the must have album, with meaningful arrangements, soulful rhythm sections and wake-me-up syncopations. It has taken Vietnamese pop music to the next level.
In Vietnamese singing theres a special and very strong relation between melody and words: there are six linguistic tones, and the same syllabe can have different meanings depending on the pronounced pitch. The poetry of the text has its internal melody, and the singer has to convey the emotions of both. Huong Thanh embodies the particularities of the Vietnamese traditional singing, full of detailed inflections, ornements, finesse and diversity of expression and timbres.
At the age of 10 Huong Thanh began to learn Cai Luong and traditional singing in the family context - her parents house was always full of visiting singers and musicians, who also acted as her teachers. At 13 she perfected her skills in studying intensively in Saigon music and theater schools, and at 16 she performed on stage for the first time.
Since her move to Paris in 1977, she has taken part in several shows of Cai Luong theater with great traditional artists -including her father- in the Vietnamese community in Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium). Each time Huong Thanh returned to Viêt-Nam she has worked for several recordings which include the best musicians of the country. In 1995 she met Nguyên Lê who brought her to the world of jazz, a music she had never performed before. The adventure of Tales from Viêt-Nam began: the band has toured in the most important festivals of France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, England, Switzerland. The CD (1996, ACT 9225-2) has received a great welcoming from international critics: Diapason d'Or, Choc du MONDE DE LA MUSIQUE, Choc of Year 1996 JAZZMAN (France), 2nd best CD 96 for JAZZTHING (Germany), Best CD 96 on radio TRS 2 (CH), "a minor masterpiece" JAZZTIMES (USA).
In 1996, in Banlieues Bleues festival, Paris, Huong Thanh was part of a complete show where traditional and contemporary Vietnamese dancers were integrated to the Tales from Viêt-Nam orchestra. She performed as a singer, as usual, but also as a dancer (the traditional sword dance of Trung Trac Trung Nhi, two sisters heroines of Viêt-Nam, training their troops for battle). The same year Huong Thanh was invited to sing for the celebration of the anniversary of the declaration of human rights at the UNESCO. In 1997 she recorded in Los Angeles, USA, with her sister Huong Lan. In 1998 she appeared on Maghreb & Friends (ACT 9261-2), Nguyên Lês last CD, on Louanges, a song by Algerian musician Karim Ziad. After translating the words from Arabic to Vietnamese, she sings the replica to the North African singers.
After several months of work, she now presents Moon and Wind, her first CD for ACT, produced, written and engineered by Nguyên Lê. A peaceful celebration of all the aspects of love: child love, with lullabies from different regions of Viêt-Nam, parents love, love of the one who will share our life, love of the far away homeland.
on Huong Thanh: