Vietnamese culture preserved in the US
February 12, 2009
Nguyen Mai, a former Saigon\HCMC music professor, has helped preserve and popularise Vietnamese culture in the US, with her 36 brass string-zither.
Before 1975, Nguyen Mai taught traditional music and how to play traditional musical instruments, including the 36 brass string-zither in Ho Chi Chi City (previously known as Saigon).
After 1975, she re-settled in the US where she no longer gave music classes.
However, after moving to Orange County in California, US where thousands of Vietnamese lived, she was invited to teach the traditional music of Vietnam for the Vietnamese community there.
One of Mai’s friends brought her a brass string zither from Vietnam, and she started teaching Vietnamese traditional music right in her own garage.
Mai and Nguyen Chau, another musical professor, founded the Lac Hong music group in 1989, with the goal of offering more lectures on the different traditional instruments of Vietnam.
With only 10 students at first, Lac Hong now has more than 100 trainees in different classes, including a chorus singing class for children, a chorus class for adults and a traditional dancing class.
And class and rehearsals are now conducted on the second floor of a small shop in Little Saigon in Orange County, California.
On Saturdays, the rehearsal room is filled with melodious sounds from the traditional Vietnamese two chord guitar, the monochord and the 16-chord zither.
Mai confided to the Los Angeles Times newspaper that through being a music teacher, she has found that all the Vietnamese have love a for their traditional music. That has given her more determination to preserve Vietnamese traditional music in the US.
To date, Lac Hong is the biggest group in the US which is performing traditional Vietnamese music and arts.
Currently, two teachers are in charge of teaching folk singing to children from 4 years old upward, and every student is allowed to study at least one musical instrument.
And many of the students continue their study of the traditional Vietnamese musical instruments offered by Lac Hong even after they start their university studies.
Students do not only learn how to play traditional Vietnaese musical instruments, they also, step by step, learn about its culture.
Translated by Mai Huong