Growing up, I’ve listened to a lot of classic Vietnamese songs and artists. Listen to them willingly? That’s pretty debatable when you have Paris By Night, a direct-to-video series started in 1984 France blasting through the house by your mom. Can we also just talk about how the two hosts of the show, Nguyễn Ngọc Ngạn and Nguyễn Cao Kỳ Duyên, never seem to age at all? I need their beauty secrets, or their make-up artist, either way.
I’ve had a slight aversion to Vietnamese music since growing up, although it never made me feel less Vietnamese. I just had no interest in it, preferring Hannah Montana or Lindsay Lohan. In addition, I couldn’t really relate to any of the lyrics as a kid, although I understand them more now. Many of the lyrics spoke about the war and love, not concepts that a 10 year-old would understand. Many Vietnamese used music as a way to speak out about the oppression that they were facing.
When I interned in Vietnam last summer, I was interested in listening to music that the young people around me were listening to. There must be a top 100 Vietnam playlist circling around that young Vietnamese liked to listen to. I approached one of the full-time staff members at my internship for suggestions, and I was introduced to the beautiful acoustics and voice of Lê Cát Trọng Lý.
She dropped studying classical music for singing and song-writing, releasing her first self-titled album in 2011, according to BBC. She hails from Danang, Vietnam, but is inspired by northern folk songs of the country.
This indie artist has soothing melodies and lyrics that are calming; I often listened to them on the two hour bus ride from Saigon to Long An Province, where my grandparents live. I can understand Vietnamese considerably well, and the melody of the lyrics themselves are haunting, even if you do not understand the lyrics.
One of my favorite songs by her is “Cơn bão nghiêng đêm” or “The midnight storm.” When her voice soars in “Ta đã yêu nhau, thề mãi mãi bên nhau cơ mà? / Anh bỗng ra đi, anh ra đi vội vã” or roughly “We have loved each other, swearing forever together that? / He suddenly left, he left in a hurry.” It gives me chills. I would recommend her self-titled album for a night of relaxation or a walk of reflection. The beautiful thing about music is that although you may not understand the lyrics, the melodies and the power of the chords and the pulse of the singers’ voice still move a listener in some way, as Lê Cát Trọng Lý does for me.
Currently, her full self-titled album is on Spotify and her Instagram is @le_cat_trong_ly.
Three Songs For Your Playlist:
Cơn bão nghiêng đêm
Giấc mộng lớn
Kimberly Nguyen is the associate digital editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.