Popular Music in Vietnam
In Vietnam today, patriotic odes to the glory
of the revolution may still be heard at Communist
Party meetings, but millions of ordinary Vietnamese
opt for the modern pop songs being belted out
on CDs and in nightclubs now flourishing in the
countrys major cities.
Trinh Cong Son, the singer/songwriter profiled
in Vietnam Passage, has inspired a
whole new generation of Vietnamese singers. His
star pupil and prodigy, Hong Nhung, is now one
of the hottest acts in Vietnam. Nhung, 32, has
experienced the rebirth of her countrys
music scene first-hand. Four to five years
ago, the youth only wanted to listen to western
music, she explains. Now young people
probably listen to half Western, half Vietnamese
music. And that is good people should have
Nhung herself sings in Vietnamese with Western-style
rhythms, influenced by the likes of Motown great
Aretha Franklin. Jazz themes predominate, and
Nhungs vibrato-free vocals soar. The signature
tune from her most recent album Nhung album features
a moody duet with a sax playerjust one hint
of the sophistication some of Vietnams top
artists have attained.
The popular "Queen
Bee" nightclub in HCM
Most Vietnamese singers get their bread and butter
from live appearances on television and in concert.
For 50,000 dong (about $3.00), fans of all ages
pour into concert halls to enjoy four-hours of
nonstop music by Vietnams most popular male
and female vocalists. As popular as these concerts
are for the fans, they take their toll on the
performers. They are forced to take up grueling
tour schedules just to make ends meet, since Vietnams
lax copyright laws mean that their CDs are often
pirated and sold for very low prices- sometimes
even before they are released to the general public!
Most tourists visiting Vietnam are introduced
to only the traditional music of a bygone time
featuring stringed instruments in odd shapes and
sizes accompanied by high-pitched vocals. But
to get a feel for what the Vietnamese themselves
really listen to, one needs only to pop into a
CD shop or tune in the radio where performers
sing ballads of love and loss reminiscent of the
style of Tony Bennett or Diana Krall.
Vietnams new sound has embraced western
influences while staying true to its poetic heart.
Trinh Cong Son would be proud of the contemporary
music industry he nurtured.