I am fortunate to have many times accompanied the poet and musician Nguyen Thuy Kha to travel across the three regions of the country. Especially recently in the coming spring, Vietnam Television made a reportage for the Tet program about the memories along his Truong Son Route in Dong Ha, Quang Tri. Every time Kha appears somewhere, many people often stop to look, perhaps because he appears many times in the program Giai Dieu Tu Hao-Proud Melodies? Boys and girls kept looking at the musician and whispering something to each other. When he entered a cafe or a pub, many people watched him intently. I was surprised at first, but gradually I got used to it and paid less attention to it.
But recently when musician Kha and I visited the family of a friend living in the same hometown as the poet and musician Nguyen Trong Tao in Da Nang. Suddenly, there was a loud call from an old woman who ran to hug musician Nguyen Thuy Kha’s shoulder while saying loudly: “Kha is here”. I was interested in this detail, so suddenly my professional blood came up, I sat down to talk with her to about how she could recognize Kha. Maybe there was a chance for a year-end article.
The old woman- Ha thi Ca- said she was 86 from Quynh Luu, Nghe An. She regularly watched the program on TV and she always listen attentively to Kha’s analysis and comments on songs- about the situations in which the songs had been written. She was really moved every time she heard of old memories. She recalled she was spending two months carrying rice in Dien Bien Phu Campaign- a glorious battle of the nation.
At that moment, I talked to Kha, sitting next to her. He said:”Giai Dieu Tu Hao is not simply a music program that refreshes the songs that people loved decades ago. The special part of the song is the talk of invited guests- those from old and young generations. After a song performed, they talk about their own opinions and about their memories of the songs. Due to different experiences and different viewpoints, there are things similar and there are things conflicted. And Kha is not only a member of the Board of Advisory. He leads the story, provides information, gives profound analysis on the songs, bringing the audience new things of spiritual connection between generations.
Although she was old, Ca was able to walk fast and mentally sharp. She said when watching Giai Dieu Tu Hao, her family members, especially the elderly, regularly sang along with the songs- famous songs connecting to their wartime and memories. She recalled the time carrying rice from Nghe An to the battle field of Dien Bien Phu “Rice is still dried despite heavy rains/ We keep carrying rice to the battlefield despite slippery roads/ Dried rice to the battlefield to help our soldiers defeat the enemy”. When asked, she did not remember where the verse from. She asked Kha why there were arguments about the songs when young people gave wrong comments on them. She did not know there were conflicting ideas when listening to songs. Sometimes, people of younger generation do not agree with the older in terms of culture and perception. It is normal in music.
So, that is it. For those who went through the fierce wars, the songs are those of their youth- their flesh and blood: unforgettable memories. And they will be story tellers for those belonging to younger generations so that they can have knowledge about their historic situation. Kha – as “a living dictionary of Vietnam’s music’- has had no small contribution: he remember every details of the songs and have good analysis on their values. Each program broadcast is a slice of music history: a painting depicting culture and society of the time with full of emotions.
Honestly, when I met Ha Thi Ca, met veterans who had participated in the two wars, I understood the program about old-time music cannot be quite good in terms of artistic quality, but each piece of works were imbued with patriotism of a fierce wartime. Musicians had written them with the vibration of their own hearts, with their own pain and faith, and with their national pride. And it made me think of contemporary songs: besides authentic works by real musicians, there are something vague in the rest: the lack of burning passion from love in their works?