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Cải lương songwriter-musician passes away at 78

Songwriter and musician Thanh Hiền, a veteran of cải lương (reformed theatre), died on Wednesday in Tây Ninh. — Photo Thanh Hiệp

HCM City — Songwriter and musician Thanh Hiền, one of the region’s most talented artists of cải lương (reformed theatre), died on Wednesday in Tây Ninh Province. He was 78.  

Beginning his career at an early age, Thanh devoted his life to cải lương, a southern genre of traditional theatre, with the aim of preserving the art.  

Hiền was born in 1942. He worked for leading cải lương troupes in HCM City and southern provinces, and wrote more than 2,000 vọng cổ (nostalgic) and tài tử (a genre of traditional southern theatre) songs which are often used in cải lương.

His works praise the country, history and culture. His famous songs include Chuyến Xe Tây Ninh (Trips to Tây Ninh), Rẽ Mạ Đầu Mùa (Working on the Fields) and Đường Ra Trận Hôm Nay (Road to the Battle).

Most of his works, performed by different generations of cải lương stars, highlight Vietnamese soldiers and farmers.   

Hiền was also known as a talented scriptwriter who left his mark on 20 cải lương plays, which have been staged many times by leading art troupes such as Trần Hữu Trang Theatre and Hương Tràm Theatre.    

His plays feature historical events and national heroes.

Some of his plays, including Vì Sao Anh Chưa Về (Why Aren't You Returing Home?) and Tiềng Hát An Cơ  (Voice of An Cơ the Bridge), were first staged in the 1960s and 70s and are part of the cải lương canon.

He also played traditional muscial instruments used in cải lương and performed with cải lương stars such as People’s Artist Minh Vương and People’s Artist Lệ Thủy.      

He brought his art to many places in the region.

“Artist Hiền has died but his art is still alive among the hearts of cải lương lovers,” said theatre critic Thanh Hiệp of Người Lao Động  (Labourer) newspaper in HCM City. — VNS

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