In Vietnam, kids play music to support sick parents

Huynh Phong Bao, 11 and Huynh Dai Phong, 8 could be considered music prodigies

11-year-old Huynh Phong Bao (left) and Huynh Dai Phong, 8, practice at home on their keyboard and drums.

Two young boys in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa have created their own musical instruments and perform at events to support their sick parents.

Huynh Phong Bao, 11 and his eight-year-old brother, Huynh Dai Phong, live in a poor alley in Ninh Hoa Town in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa where they have taught themselves how to play music and perform and earn money for their mother to care for their father who is in a persistent vegetative state.

They could play music before they learned how to read, though they never received any formal music education.

Learning music is a luxury in their poor neighborhood, where most people eke out a living as farmers.

Pham Thi Ngoc Chau, Bao’s and Phong’s mother, is still unable to understand how her boys were able to learn to play music so quickly.

Unlike their parents, both of whom are barely literate and music-ignorant, the two boys have been infatuated with tunes since a young age.

After returning home from herding buffalo each afternoon, Bao and Phong build their own musical instruments from kitchen utensils and scraps in order to produce catchy melodies, Chau shared, beaming with pride.

One of them made a homemade guitar using a biscuit box as the body. 

Bao shared that he and his brother built the piece from a broken guitar they found in the fields.
Unable to afford a percussion kit, they practice drumming using tools created from beer cans and pot lids.

“Our makeshift tools used to produce superb sounds, though now they are becoming rusty, the boy said.

The family was dealt a devastating blow in 2013 when the boys’ father, the family’s breadwinner, suffered critical brain trauma.
He was not killed but has since been in a vegetative state.

Relatives and neighbors become moved to tears at the sight of the two brothers practicing their instruments next to their motionless father.  

Sometimes they turned to him, asking naively “Are we doing a good job, Dad? Please smile Dad.”

Locals have chosen to help the family, raising money to buy Bao and Phong a keyboard and set of drums so that the duo can perform to help their mother.

Play music for medicines
It took the boys only a couple of months to master their new instruments.
“We pick up the tunes from television and mobile phones and teach ourselves to play the pieces. It was difficult at first but things quickly got easier,” Phong said.
Chau, the boys’ mother, who suffers from heart disease, cannot handle heavy work. 

Her husband’s condition has plunged the family into enormous financial difficulty.

Known in the neighborhood and adjacent localities for their outstanding skills, the boys have received numerous invitations to perform at weddings and parties.

Bao and Phong also sing upon request during their performances.

The two boys are always accompanied by their mother or grandmother during their performances.

“They don’t mind travelling far to the parties. Once, they didn’t come home until two in the morning after performing at a wedding reception dozens of kilometers away. Drained and soaked to the skin from the downpour, they just took a few hours of rest before hurrying to school the following morning,” Chau recounted.

They give all their earnings to their mother to buy medicine for their sick father and cover tuition. 

Bao and Phong often play music after getting home from school, “as the soothing pieces make Dad happy.”

Phan Dinh Lam, principal of the middle school where Bao and Phong are studying, noted the boys’ moving story has set a shining example for their peers and even adults.
The school and local authorities have also waived tuitions and offered other assistance to the boys and their parents.

The young brothers’ inspiring efforts and familial bonds have drawn letters of sympathy from people in.

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