We talked about how deep Vietnamese culture is. When we mention culture, we don’t only mean customs and preferences. We also include painting, religion, poetry, sculpture, and the one part of culture that we are going to talk about here: Music.
Please note that this article is based on my understanding of Vietnamese music, and pretty much as much as the rest of this blog, information here shouldn’t be understood as facts, but as interpretations from an outsider, from a foreigner who only lived 5 years in the country he’s talking about.
Vietnamese have their own way to understand and enjoy music, and that has a direct influence on the songs they produce. A big part of the vietnamese music that they listen to today was written and produced years, decades, and sometimes even centuries ago, and even more recent pieces of music are deeply influenced by the old times. The old-school style includes lyrics and topics, but also sonorities and even instruments used in the songs. Some instruments like Dan Bao, Dan Tran, or Dan Tu, are 100% Vietnamese invented and Vietnamese made, and nearly exclusively used in the country. Each area of the country has its own specific music or style, that differs from each other in term of type of singing, instruments used, tempo, or other specificities.
All those points might make Vietnamese music hard to appreciate, understand, and enjoy from a foreigner point of view, simply because their musical standards are so far from the european or american ones that foreigners’ ears and minds aren’t shaped and used to understand the deepness of Vietnamese music. But if I can give you an advice: Make the effort. Spend time to try assimilate music, that will help you understand part of the society and the history. For me, it was a great pleasure to discover vietnamese music and to listen to some of their songs while i was living there, and even to this date, a few specific songs bring back awesome memories. I had the chance to work very closely with some incredibly skilled musicians, mainly from the Saigon’s Conservatory, and I’m still amazed by their level, their passion, and their knowledge about music.
Of course, in today’s vietnamese music, you’ll find some vietnamese-made pop or electronic songs, often pretty hard to appreciate from my point of view, but still very interesting to discover. So ask the locals what they are listening to, and give it a try!