Several weeks ago I came home from work and my fiancee excitedly turned on some music that she had discovered on a Vietnamese music website, nhaccuatui.com. The music was a number of songs recorded by Vietnamese artists before 1975, and most of these particular songs used the same melodies as classic songs mostly from the States.
I don’t know who saved, digitalized and uploaded the music to this particular website, but I am thankful. Saigon and indeed the nation itself are quickly losing a lot of their history in the rapid run of development, and it is vital that culture be preserved for the future.
Here’s a song called Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the ‘Ol Oak Tree, sung in English by a singer listed as Thuy Ha Tu, but I’m positive that the order of her name is wrong and I also don’t know the tone markings.
Or here’s a song called Tinh Ban sung to the melody of James Taylor’s You’ve Got a Friend by a signer noted as Cathy Hue. As far as I can tell, the Vietnamese lyrics are very similar to the English words.
Another song was this one, titled Mong Phieu Du and sung by a singer named Tuan Dung that borrows the melody from Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel.
And I simply had to mention this song titled Loi Cho Co Hippie Bui Doi sung by a band called CBC and to the tune of Ticket to Ride by the Beatles.
Listening to these songs and looking at the titles, I finally understood why a lot of middle-aged friends of mine in Long Xuyen know all of these songs, or at least the melodies, by heart: They listened to them while they were growing up in what was then South Vietnam. Nowadays, I doubt that any young people in Ho Chi Minh City, or for that matter anywhere in the country would know about this music. I have a friend who told me that his parents destroyed all of their records and record players after 1975 so there would be no problems with the new government. Sadly, because of precautions like that, so much culture was lost.
Luckily, some of this classic rock style music has made it to YouTube, such as CBC singing People Let’s Stop the War originally by Grand Funk Railroad at a place called Sherwood Forest in Saigon.
Here’s another link to a YouTube video, again of the band CBC, singing a Vietnamese song. I didn’t know that this type of music ever existed here.
So the next time you’re in a cafe and going crazy with the Vietnamese muzak, or when your eardrums are getting pierced with some contemporary crappy pop, think back to this music and believe that it can happen again here.
Finally, there is one more thing, also on YouTube, that is very interesting: A four-part audio slide show of bands from Saigon in the 60s and 70s. It’s very moving to see their faces and hear the great music they created that has now been nearly forgotten.
Enjoy and ask all your Vietnamese friends about this music; see what they know.