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.

Source: TT&VH

Translated by Mai Huong

Pop singers try their luck as movie actors
13:24′ 09/10/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Scratch a method actor and what do you get? Another actor, says the old industry adage. If you were to do the same in Vietnam, however, the chances are you’d find a vocalist.

Four members of AC&M, the boyband whose members are the latest pop idols trying to make the leap to the silver-screen.
The outsiders: Four members of AC&M, the boyband whose members are the latest pop idols trying to make the leap to the silver-screen.

It seems the Vietnamese film industry is suffering from a poor self-image – judging by the latest batch of good-looking pop stars to grace our screens.

Among the wannabes to have successfully made the transition are Nguyen Phi Hung, Ho Quynh Huong, Phuong Thanh and Lam Truong.

No doubt directors, and producers recognise a good marketing opportunity when they see one.

“Their fame and their fans are a big attraction to us and are foremost in our minds when we cast a singer in an acting role,” said Khai Anh, who directed the recent TV hit Nhat Ky Vang Anh (Vang Anh’s Diary).

Anh has been very successful at exploiting fan loyalty, and singers that instantly come to mind are Hoang Hai, Le Hieu, My Dung, Cao Thai Son and Bich Ngoc.

However, it’s not just cynical, one-sided exploitation on the part of the movie industry – many a fading pop singer has managed to revive his or her flagging singing career by flirting with film.

Ho Ngoc Ha, who began as a singer more years ago than she’d perhaps care to admit, managed to multiply her fan-base by taking on acting roles.

While Ngo Thanh Van reinvented herself for the lead role in The Rebel this summer, which has become one of the highest-grossing Vietnamese films of all time.

“I love both singing and acting,” gushes Van, no doubt lapping up the attention.

Hoang Hai, the most sought after singer-cum-thespian in Vang Anh’s stable of actors, said the difference between the two performing arts is less clear-cut than they first appears.

“The two disciplines are not dissimilar. I like acting because it allows me to explore my character, dig out unknown facets to my nature. Moreover, acting is great fun and invaluable experience for singers,” says Hai.

However, not every singer has found acting to their liking. Famous pop stars, such as Nguyen Phi Hung, Lam Truong and Phuong Thanh, did little more than dip their toe in television before scurrying back to their first love.

Others are less willing to put their lucrative singing careers on hold while they devote their time and energy to acting.

“In Vietnam, you can make money from singing but not acting. I mean, every Vietnamese movie actor has to make sacrifices to develop their careers,” says The Rebel’s star Van.

And there are those like Tran Hai Minh who believe pop stars should do what they know best.

“Almost every singer now acting has never had any professional training. All they have is their celebrity and their voices. Directors lining up to cast them in a role have given them the misguided notion that they are talented film stars, rather than just decorative props,” said Minh.

Director Nguyen My Khanh, who began shooting the musical Acappella this month, believes in casting actors whose real lives match those of the parts they are playing.

“I am very interested in working with actors whose fictional characters are similar to their own. If they can relate to the part they will put their heart and soul into getting it right,” said Khanh.

Which is why she has cast the band AC&M to star in her latest work.

“Things will be much better when singers who want to be actors realise they are involved in a serious work of art rather than a promotional campaign for their own careers,” she said.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

Director of Ngan Khoi Chorus strikes cultural chords.

VU: Binh Vu conducts a rehearsal recently before the group’s performance in La Mirada March 18.

Binh Ton Vu

Age: 53

Residence: Upland

Occupation: Part-time musical director at the Laguna Niguel Presbyterian Church and freelance orchestra conductor

Education: Doctorate in music from Claremont Graduate University; bachelor’s and master’s in music from Cal State Northridge

Favorite orchestra: Craiova Philharmonic Master Chorale and Symphony Orchestra in Romania, which he conducted in May 2006

Family: Wife, Anh-Thu, and two children


For Binh Ton Vu, music is more than an activity to pass time. The musical director of the Ngan Khoi Chorus believes that music has the power to connect the Vietnamese-American culture to its roots and at the same time, integrate it with mainstream America.

Vu conducted a sold-out concert on March 18 for the Ngan Khoi Chorus in La Mirada. The chorus blended indigenous music with other kinds of global music, blurring cultural and musical boundaries.

Vu explains this novel concept and how it has become popular with the local Vietnamese-American community.

Q:What types of instruments does the Ngan Khoi Chorus use in a typical performance?

A:We use indigenous Vietnamese instruments such as the dan-tranh, a 16-string instrument and the dan-bau, which is a monochord. At the recent concert, we used the western harp in a nontraditional way to sound like the dan-tranhby using the harp pedals and plucking the strings simultaneously to produce sliding notes.

Q:How and why does this music appeal to the Vietnamese-American community?

A:This music is what we call “high art.” It’s different from the popular music that makes money. This is music for the soul that connects us with our roots. When the Vietnamese first came to this country, they had more immediate needs, like finding work and putting food on the table. Now, many in the community are upwardly mobile and doing very well. Now, they have the time for cultural pursuits. Our group is composed of lawyers, doctors and a variety of professionals who dedicate their time to pursuing this kind of pure music although temptations are many to devote their time to the popular music.

Q:How does this music help participants understand their culture better?

A:Music doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists within the framework of a culture. For example, one of the songs we sang at our recent performance was about planting rice crops. This type of song is called di cay. On the surface, it’s about young men and women singing while planting the crop by moonlight. But when you take a deeper look, it’s very romantic. The song is like a question and answer where the man and woman subtly and beautifully proclaim their undying love for one another. There is a cultural lesson in each song.

Q:How has the music helped with the mainstreaming of Vietnamese-Americans?

A:I think of late our community is realizing the importance of mingling with mainstream America. We try to reflect this unity by incorporating different elements of our respective cultures and music.

Binh Ton Vu

Contact the writer: 714-445-6685 or dbharath@ocregister.com

15:06′ 26/10/2006 (GMT+7)

Soạn: HA 936329 gi đến 996 để nhn ảnh này
MTV Asia DJs May And Choy.

VietNamNet Bridge – MTV Asia breaks onto the Vietnamese music scene November 4th with its first local concert, “The Wings of Hope,” featuring Vietnamese and South Korean singing sensations at the Phan Dinh Phung sports center in Ho Chi Minh City.


Aside from the notable names of Vietnamese pop stars, Phuong Thanh, Dam Vinh Hung, Ho Ngoc Ha, Thu Minh, Minh Quan, and MTV band, a Korean band called the V4Men and singer/actress Seo Ji Young will join the show. The performance will also see the attendance of the famous MTV Asia twins from Singapore, May and Choy.


The performers will sing Korean songs translated into Vietnamese together such as “Tears,” “Although Ten Years Have Passed,” and “Impossible Together”. A portion of the proceeds from the concert will be given in relief to the Vietnamese victims of typhoon Xangsane.


MTV Asia has been presented in Vietnam for ten years, but while the MTV Network and services are being expanded around the globe, most programs are simply rebroadcast through one TV channel and two radio stations in Vietnam.


The Wings of Hope” begins MTV’s strategy to enlarge and develop the music market in Vietnam. In the scope of its broadcasting plans, MTV Asia and BHD, a local entertainment company, plan to organize events in promoting MTV Asia to bring Vietnamese music lovers closer to MTV.


The V4 Men have a few intentions playing the show: they hope to surge onto the music scene, win the hearts of the Vietnamese audience, and prepare the public for their release of “Andanct” (Slowly) in Vietnamese, this coming November.


The album includes 8 Korean love ballads translated into Vietnamese by the Vietnamese musicians Vo Thien Thanh, Ha Quang Minh and Chu Minh Ky. Comprising the V4 Men are Ji/One (Song Jae Won), Lee Jung Ho (Lee), Jung Sae Young (Jung) and Han Hyoun Hee (Han).


(Source: SGGP)


Mimesis: The UK has a rich tradition of street entertainment. Live statues are among the vibrant popular culture. — Courtesy Photo British Council

UK Splash! is infusing Brit-ish culture into major cit-ies throughout this month with a range of cultural shows designed to raise appreciation for British film, food and music.

“Cultural and educational links between the UK and Viet Nam are stronger than ever,” said Keith Davies, director of the British Council in Viet Nam.

“In education we are really pleased that the number of joint programmes is beginning to grow, and Viet Nam has also been identified as a priority country for strategic partnership in vocational education.”

The cultural month promises to bring young people and professionals who are keen on experiencing UK creativity a world of opportunities in Ha Noi, HCM City and Da Nang.

Apart from annual education exhibitions and UK alumni galas there will be film weeks, live concerts by Akala, the British award-winning hip-hop artist and professional seminars.

Akala will perform with a Vietnamese DJ and drummer at the concerts on October 27 at Ha Noi’s Quan Ngua Stadium and on the 29th at HCM City’s Lan Anh Stadium. Tickets will be available at the British Council 10 days before each concert.

Akala is part of the new wave of talented hip-hop artists emerging from the London-based scene, including Kano, Sway and Plan B. Akala (meaning ‘immovable’) adds a rock edge to his hip-hop, creating a genuine crossover style which is as musically aggressive as it is insightful.

The film week kicked off yesterday in Ha Noi with six films dubbed in Vietnamese playing at the Megastar at Vincom City Tower, 191 Ba Trieu; the Cinematheque at 22a Hai Ba Trung is showing the films in their original English. In HCM City the film week won’t start until Sunday. At Galaxy Cinema, 116 Nguyen Du Street, all the films will be shown with Vietnamese voice-over and in original language. The detailed schedule is available at http://www.britishcouncil.org/vietnam.

Street Culture Day, set for October 15 in the capital, showcases the infamous UK street art alongside samples of British food.

The day will include four hours of street culture with live statues, music, street-side portrait painting, acrobats, jugglers, stilt performers, graffitists, a speaker’s corner, souvenirs and British food stall. Visitors will also have a chance to see the excitement of this year’s Edinburgh Festival through photographs of Xuan Binh, who has returned from the UK.

UK Alumni Galas will be held on October 20 and 23 in Ha Noi and HCM City, respectively.

A two-day education exhibition gathering representatives of more than 60 UK universities and colleges will be on October 21-22 in Ha Noi and on October 24-25 in HCM City. Da Nang will for the first time host a one-day education exhibition on October 27.

“We see a growing number of Da Nang students applying for study in the UK, so we decided to hold an education exhibition in the city this year,” explained Davies.

UK Splash! also embraces a training session for Vietnamese journalists as part of a three-year capacity building project funded by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Council, in partnership with the Vietnam News Agency.

Throughout this month the council will re-launch two global education brands: Education UK and IELTS (International English-Language Test System).

In addition, the British Council plans to host a conference on education reform and job market skills. The organising body will also donate books and learning materials to schools. — VNS

20:52′ 20/08/2006 (GMT+7)

Soạn: AM 872489 gi đến 996 để nhn ảnh này

VietNamNet Bridge – VietNamNet Bridge – Dan Perskins has been invited to conduct many concerts in America and European countries, and has worked for free on many concerts organised by the Vietnam Opera and Ballet Theatre.  

In the words of Pham Hong Hai, Vice Director of Vietnam Opera and Ballet Theatre (VNOB), Dan Perskins has done so as in his heart, he has the love for Vietnam. 

Indeed, Dan Perkins would be “very expensive” for his excellence and knowledge of music.

Currently he is the Dean of the Faculty of Concert at Plymouth State University, music director of New Hampshire Master Chorale. Under his mastery, Plymouth State University Choir has gained a number of successes in performances in America, England, South Africa, and Italy.  

Dan is one of the founders of the Educational Theatre Collaborative. Also, Dan is the pianist of Ruggieri Chamber Soloist Theatre. In his recent trip to Vietnam, Dan talked with the press. 

When did you first come to Vietnam, and how did you begin working with VNOB? 

The first time I came to Vietnam was in 2002 when I led the American Friendship Chorale on a tour. There were 80 members of the choir performing in Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City. Mr Pham Hong from VNOB heard our performance in Hanoi and he came and invited me to guide the VNOB Choir and to conduct some concerts performed by the VNOB Symphony Orchestra. But I was not free to do that until May last year. Since then, we have worked together a lot, and I have been to Vietnam six times to work for and to perform with VNOB. I found it very exciting to work with VNOB artists.  

What do you think about the VNOB instrumentalists? 

I have often tried to find good, not very common works that will challenge VNOB instrumentalists. We have been quite successful playing in a witty, passionate and vehement way. I do value the willingness of my Vietnamese colleagues to learn new things in a new style. They are wonderful. 

West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein is being staged in Vietnam for the first time. Could you please tell us more about the composer? Do you have any problems when conducting West Side Story? 

Leonard Bernstein was born in 1918 and died in 1990. He was the most influential composer of American classical music in the second half of the 20th century. He was a composer, conductor, author and music lecturer, and through music, Bernstein tried to express his opinions on political and social issues. West Side Story is often called the Romeo and Juliet of modern times. Many of his works convey strong anti-war messages like Chichester Psalms. That is one of the reasons why I and so many other people love his music. 

The VNOB orchestra and I practiced West Side Story for about three weeks. The work’s rhythm is very challenging and the orchestra has to play it in a Jazz style. Freedom and impromptu playing are necessary for this work. At the beginning I found it a little hard, but after several days, it turned out to be fantastic. What we performed was dubbed “a symphony of dances from West Side Story” by many American music critics. I am satisfied and proud. In January 2007 I will return to Vietnam to work with VNOB on this project again. We also planned to have dancers on the stage while performing the work. I will invite an American choreographer who is working for the Broadway TBA Theatre to come and work with VNOB. 

So what do you think about the country and Vietnamese people after coming here six times? 

I found that my Vietnamese friends are very open-minded, sincere and kind. I am usually surprised about how quickly people make friends with each other. It seems like some friends always have a spare room to welcome you even if you are an American. I love the country. Vietnamese language is hard to pronounce but the sound is beautiful. Vietnam also has a rich culture. Family relations here are important and very close. I think we Americans may learn something from Vietnamese about how to make the family relation closer. 

The first time I worked with VNOB was in a performance of the Vietnamese – American Choir on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Liberation of Saigon. I came with seven other people from an American Chorale, and we worked with the VNOB Choir. We sang together in the hope that the sorrowful past would be forgotten and music would bridge the gap between us. 

(Source: HNM)



Tue Apr 11, 1:56 PM ET

Vietnamese singer Lynda Trang Dai poses for a picture Friday, March 24, 2006, in Westminster, Calif. A thawing of U.S.-Vietnamese relations has led to a flood of new Vietnamese singers in the United States, many of whom were born after the war and put art before politics. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press WriterTue Apr 11, 5:53 PM ET

Fans of the bittersweet music of loss and longing that has unified millions of war-scattered Vietnamese refugees are warming to songs and stars from a homeland many still mistrust.

Government censorship guarantees that exports from Vietnam's booming music industry boast themes of love and patriotism — not the political undercurrents that swirl through songs by Vietnamese exiles in the United States, whose plight is a common theme.

What these divergent branches of the same music long have shared is style, with soaring songs that sound like sentimental Western-style ballads. Now, after three decades of independent evolution, they are growing closer still — a reunion that reflects warming U.S.-Vietnamese relations.

Artists on both sides of the Pacific once beholden to political calculations say they are more free artistically, and that the beneficiary is the music. The new dynamic is clear in Orange County, home to the largest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam.

Singers living in California who once were boycotted by anti-communist activists for performing in Vietnam can tour their homeland with little worry.

And expatriate Vietnamese who saw Vietnam's music industry as the long arm of a government they despise are slowly moderating their views. So many starlets from Hanoi and Saigon now perform in the United States that some fans can't be sure who comes from where.

Loc Nguyen, a 64-year-old San Jose resident and music fan, was a fighter pilot for South Vietnam and spent time in a communist re-education camp. Like many expatriate Vietnamese, he fled after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

He recently went to see the aging Elvis Phuong, a star who made his fortune in the United States, but was equally excited to hear two baby-faced Vietnamese divas who recently arrived in California.

Nguyen said that after many years expatriate Vietnamese are beginning to realize performers should be judged by the music they make, not where they're from.

"If I was to hear a beautiful Russian song, I'm not going to hate it because it's associated with the Soviets," Nguyen said.

Orange County's crowded Little Saigon district is the Nashville of the expatriate Vietnamese music industry. Production houses such as Paris By Night and Asia Entertainment Inc. churn out thousands of CDs and DVDs by exiled stars.

The DVDs in particular — recordings of live concerts and variety shows featuring dozens of singers and comedians — are a common touchstone for a community of about 3 million Vietnamese living in dozens of countries. Inside the brightly colored cases is music that reflects the pain of families torn apart by violence.

As recently as five years ago, the anti-communist zeal of expatriate Vietnamese caused trouble for artists on both sides of the Pacific.

When Elvis Phuong (an old-school heart throb famous for his bouffant hair, open-chested suits and on-stage gyrations) toured Vietnam in 2000 for the first time since 1975, promoters canceled 12 shows in the U.S. in protest, according to Caroline Kieu Linh Valverde, an Asian-American Studies professor at the University of California, Davis.

Now, Phuong lives most of the year in Saigon and regularly performs in the United States and other Western nations. A mainstay of the American Vietnamese pop scene, Phuong found fans in Vietnam hungry for live performances after buying pirated copies of his CDs and DVDs.

This year Lynda Trang Dai, aka the "Vietnamese Madonna," returned to her homeland for the first time since 1979. She's planning a three-city "Lynda Live in Vietnam" tour for August.

"Sometimes I have to hold back from crying because it's just so touching the way the audience responds to me. They idolize me, like the real Vietnamese Madonna," said Dai, 35. "They've been waiting for so long for me to come back."

Music has not, however, eased all tensions.

Some producers still shun certain artists for political reasons, and some expatriate singers won't tour Vietnam because they say the government will censor their songs. Indeed, some artists have been able to return to Vietnam only if they agree not to sing certain songs. And others aren't welcome at all.

The 34-year-old pop diva Thu Phuong, who was trained by the Vietnamese government, defected to the United States in 2001 while performing in San Jose. A rising star when she left, Phuong hasn't returned.

"Music and culture are part of the politics. When I came over, that's the price I had to pay," she said.

Still, the musical exchange is in full motion.

As many as 50 Vietnamese artists a year travel to the United States to perform for an expatriate community hungry for new sounds and stars, said Clarence Taylor, a promoter who's half-Vietnamese. Taylor uses almost all Vietnamese singers at his company, D&D Entertainment, because "most of the talent here is what I call a residue of what's left over since 1975."

Some divas, such as 28-year-old Ha Tran, now live in the United States and split their time between the two countries, where they are equally in demand. Tran moved to Orange County several years ago after meeting her Vietnamese-American husband while touring Northern California.

At a recent concert in Santa Ana, Elvis Phuong shared the stage with Tran and Thu Phuong to perform the "timeless classics" of expatriate Vietnamese music. A live band with an energetic drummer and an electric violin moved through jazzy tunes, slow ballads that recalled prewar Hanoi and lost loves and a classic war song about a South Vietnamese soldier who falls for a civilian girl.

Backstage, Tran said blending new and the old artists was the best way to reconcile the past with the present — both politically and musically.

"It's more like a culture exchange and that's how we bridge the gap," she said. "The exchange is really good."


Associated Press Writer Daisy Nguyen contributed to this report.