Phan Thuận Thảo*
1. What is country music?
Country music includes new songs, which melodies have echoes of traditional mu-sic. They are instrumental works, which are composed based on traditional music of certain regions in our country. This music type is also called “contemporary folk”.
We should distinguish between hometown-themed songs and hometown music. There are many songs, in which lyrics’ content mention the hometown but the melodies don’t echo traditional music, such as Thương về xứ Huế (Ming States), Trở về Huế (Van Phung), Hà Nội những năm 2000 (Tran Tien), Sài Gòn cô tiên năm 2000 (The three-cat band). On the contrary, there are many songs, in which lyrics’ content do not mention the hometown but the melodies echo traditional music, such as Tiếng đàn bầu, Chiếc áo bà ba, Lòng mẹ, Mừng tuổi mẹ. Therefore, country music mentioned in this article are songs, in which the melodies echo traditional music. Their contents may be about anything, from national pride to couples love to maternal love.
2. The position of the country music in today musical life
Today in Vietnam, especially in big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, the mu-sical life is eventful, with a large variety of music type: Pop, Rock, Jazz, Western Classical Music, and Traditional Music. Each category attracts a certain audience of its own. Country music also exists in this musical life.
We can find in our country this music type, which originated from the West and tends to become more and more popular. The vibrant, bustling rhythm of this music type is suitable for the fast pace of modern life. In contrast to this, the lyrical pop songs win the hearts of the older generation. Besides, because of slow rhythms, spread melodies, many characteristics similar to traditional music, country music occupies a modest position in the music market. This is easy to understand because Western culture has been affecting every corner of material and spirit life, not only in Vietnam but also in many other countries around the world.
However, country music still plays an important role in today musical life. Many composers have spent a lot of effort, or simply challenged themselves with country music and composed many good songs, such as Về quê (Pho Duc Phuong), Huế thương, Ca dao em và tôi (An Thuyen), Chiếc áo bà ba (Tran Thien Thanh), Nhịp phách tiền, Tang tình tang (Vietnam Germany), Chiều sông Hương, Tơ vương (Vinh Phuc), Điệu buồn phương Nam (Vu Duc Sao Bien). Many singers, who specialize in singing country music, such as Anh Tho, Cam Ly, Quang Linh, Thanh Thuy, Van Khanh, Hanh Nguyen, and Khanh Duy, still have a certain number of “fans” of their own. They not only sing live on stage but also release albums in bulk. Speaking to the press, Mr. Truong Quoc Khanh, Vafaco studios Deputy Director said: “Currently, music fashion ‘life’ lasts about three months, during and after which the tapes of this hometown music type are sold throughout the year. This shows that the needs of people who love this music are really great and the producers need to in-vest more. (The “Employees” magazine, dated August 07, 2003). As such, though country music is not as popular as other music genres, it still can secure a place in the bustle of con-temporary music flow.
3. Why musicians should spend efforts on the country music?
Of course, the creation of artwork depends on the forte of each artist. What I want to emphasize is that musicians should expend efforts on country music for the following reasons:
– The country music has lyrical melody, subtle reduplication, content closed to the country love, easy to understand lyrics, so it is easy to get into the mind. Many musicians have been successful with this music type and we need to continue to develop that road.
– There are many ways to create country music: transformation of the tradition-al music’s melody, or a combination of the traditional music characteristics and western music. Some musicians (like Tran Tien and Pham Anh Khoa) made efforts on “rock” and
“pop” songs of the country music, and this also created interesting variations for country music. We’re looking forward to having more valuable works in this genre in the future.
– The number of spectators of the country music is not less. Vietnam’s population living in rural areas has a lot of love for this music genre, which is involved with their lives. In addition, overseas Vietnamese also love songs of this genre, because the music brings back memories of the homeland and the country. When viewing the music program for overseas Vietnamese (produced by Thuy Nga or Central Asia), we can see the significant capacity for this music genre.
– In the trends of globalization today, we should focus on country music to preserve, continue, and develop the traditional music flow. This complements the general policy of our country: conserve and promote the national culture, and avoid the risk of being assim-ilated by the foreign culture. On the other hand, if our works are performed in an interna-tional environment, they will be appreciated as our own unique Vietnamese identity.
– Despite the fact that the youth-oriented music (pop, rock, etc.) are in the market, country music still plays an important role in today musical life, not a blaring noise, but a gentle humming, liberated. Despite the needs of the public to enjoy a variety of music which require musicians to create many different types of music, country music deserves more attention for its value and development.
* Dr. Phan Thuận Thảo