Talk Around Town
Young children dressed in provocative outfits performing mournful love songs, imitating the style of Viet Nam’s older singing stars; you can see such images on many VCDs and DVDs.
One of the most famous of these child singers is Nguyen Huy, better known as Baby Chau, who made his name performing love songs such as Tra No Tinh Xa (Payback to a Faraway Lover) and Co Don Minh Anh (I am Lonely).
The key to this boy’s success is his knack for imitating the singing style of the adult performers who popularised these songs, and while this is an impressive talent, the fact that our young singers take such an approach underscores the sad truth that the nation’s composers seem to have forgotten the art of writing real children’s songs.
This point was hit home to me recently when my neighbour complained that her 8-year old daughter and 6-year old son only like to sing adult love songs.
“It seems like they don’t have any new children’s songs to sing, and they’re bored with most of the well-known old songs for kids like Con Co Be Be [The Little Stork] or Chu Meo Con [The Kitten],” she told me.
While these traditional songs have useful educational value, they have been sung for many generations and are becoming increasingly outdated, and in the last few years only a handful of new songs has been composed to cater for the tastes and interests of today’s children.
I encountered another demonstration of our neglect of this genre in recent times on an HTV7 game show recently, when three famous singers were unable to name the children’s song Dem Trang Hoa Binh (Peaceful Moonlit Night) after hearing the melody. It seems that Viet Nam’s traditional children’s songs have become strange even to people who make a living from performing music.
It is unsurprising, then, that the children of today express less interest in these songs than past generations, preferring instead to sing adult pop songs.
Singer Ung Hoang Phuc appeared taken aback when a little boy jumped on the stage at his recent HCM City concert and smoothly ran through one of his hits, but perhaps he shouldn’t have been – after all, children grow up listening to the love songs enjoyed by their older family members, so it’s natural that they should want to imitate this music.
Many young children now idolise singers like Phuc, along with My Tam, Dan Truong, Quang Vinh and Doan Trang, and this was reflected on national Children’s Day on June 1, when these singers performed concerts for children.
While their success is a positive sign for young people’s music and promises to inspire a new generation of stars, it nonetheless reveals the extent to which children’s music has been neglected. Why has this happened?
The short answer is that music should reflect reality, and to do so it needs to constantly adapt to cultural changes.
My neighbour pointed out to me that it is somewhat strange to teach our children a song like Ruoc Den Ong Sao (Star-Shaped Lantern Parade), for example, when the traditional children’s lantern parades of the Autumn festival are unfamiliar to many of them.
Similarly, as cats are less common in families nowadays, the lyrics of The Kitten are not interesting or meaningful to many young children.
Instead, today’s children are interested in mobile phones, surfing the internet, playing computer games and watching adult programmes on satellite TV.
Yet children’s songs don’t cover these things, because while our veteran composers like Pham Tuyen and Hoang Lan have virtually stopped writing music for children, the younger generation of composers is busy churning out endless songs about broken-hearted lovers aimed at the youth market.
The children’s music market has been almost completely forgotten, but we shouldn’t assume that today’s children don’t want songs composed especially for them.
Instead, a serious effort to produce music concerning subjects which young children can relate to is necessary if this genre is to be saved, an effort which should be spearheaded by the Musicians’ Association and television channels. — VNS
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