Thursday, 28/04/2011 09:21

Culture Vulture

Veteran composer Pho Duc Phuong has released his first song in five years, and even then it was something he wrote 10 years ago. The song, Nao Nao Thac Ba (Thac Ba Wallowing in Nostalgia), is performed by boy band M4U and aimed at younger listeners.

Phuong, (67), director of the Viet Nam Copyright Music Centre, is known for his romantic characterisation of northern areas in his music. Among the best know are Tren Que Huong Quan Ho (In the Land of Love Duets), Huyen Thoai Ho Nui Coc (Coc Mountain's Legend), Mot Thoang Tay Ho (A Glimpse of West Lake), and Tren Dinh Phu Van (On Top of Phu Van Mountain).

He talks about Nao Nao Thac Ba, his music and his plans.

Why did it take 10 years to release the song Nao Nao Thac Ba?

I wrote the song for a tour in the northern province of Yen Bai about 10 years ago. It was performed and then stored away. I still thought about the song but I had to wait for the proper time. When I finally went back to it, I decided it needed new expression, so I rearranged the structure and cut out a piece. Then I invited musician Do Bao to orchestrate with singing by M4U.

Normally, your songs are successful with solo performances. Why did you invite a boy band, and a new one at that, to sing this song?

The listeners today, as always, are young people, they are the most enthusiastic audience of music. When I rewrote the song, I had to think with my heart how young people would receive it.

I was very glad when M4U took on the song with such exciting spirit, enthusiasm and respect. Musician Do Bao said he also felt the song was worthy of such an effort.

Over the past five years I have been too busy to write songs. Nao Nao Thac Ba is an opportunity to get back with my own. The song is not only a small gift to my audience but an opportunity to measure my power.

Nao Nao Thac Ba is still full of clouds, rivers and natural beauty which is your signature style. Are you satisfied with it?

Most young people enjoy this song. I'm really glad. For example, a young singer, Tina Tinh, said she listened to the song all day.

M4U also said they loved performing the song.

Many of your compositions are related to certain locations. Did you write them in order?

All my songs were composed for a certain programme or were ordered, they weren't spontaneous, including the song Ve Que (Homeland Return). It's the one I like most. I wrote the song to order for a folk singing festival. I don't think the song is known.

Tren Dinh Phu Van I wrote for a play about the love between a Huyen Quang monk and an imperial concubine in the 13th century. At the beginning I didn't know about Zen poetry and I got stuck in the writing. Even my friends who are poets couldn't help me understand about Zen poetry.

Then the writer of the play gave me a 700-page book about Chinese astrology which had a chapter of 80 pages on Zen literature. I read it carefully and gradually by osmosis I understood and was able to finish the song in about three days.

Do you have any pressure to return to writing?

Returning is never easy. I am always working under pressure, that is my personality. I'm always wondering, worrying and thinking about responsibility. Each time I release a new piece I feel the pressure to do better.

When copyright work temporarily stabilised, I was able to return to rewrite Nao Nao Thac Ba. But the return made me very nervous. How would I do?

I think I have to keep following the young audience's taste. I used to be known for writing songs based on traditional music, but my new songs can not be the same as 5-10 years ago. It doesn't mean I have broken with my past music, I am still Pho Duc Phuong, but I want to write songs that are up-to-date with modern music trends. — VNS

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