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In Vietnam, elderly woman, daughter peddle to support grandson’s pursuit of traditional music

Friday, September 25, 2020, 12:45 GMT+7
In Vietnam, elderly woman, daughter peddle to support grandson’s pursuit of traditional music
Eleven-year-old Nguyen Ngoc Thien Thanh (left) plays 'dan bau,' or Vietnamese monochord, in the presence of his maternal grandmother, mother, and elder brother in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam in this supplied photo.

While most of his peers get hooked on pop music and other contemporary genres, this young boy is only interested in traditional music and his infatuation has been fueled by his grandmother and mother who run a food vendor cart in the central province of Quang Nam to support his passion. 

Eleven-year-old Nguyen Ngoc Thien Thanh’s taste for traditional music took hold as his maternal grandmother lulled him to sleep with folk songs during one of his hospital stays.

Obsessed with the music since his very first encounter, the boy insisted on accompanying his grandmother to parties where he performed folk songs on stage.

Before social distancing was enforced in Da Nang City and neighboring Quang Nam Province from late July to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus during its second outbreak, Thanh’s mother Nguyen Tuong Van had never taken a single day off from pushing her vendor cart from which she earns her family’s income.

The 38-year-old woman, who left her hometown for Cam Kim Commune in Hoi An City — the capital of Quang Nam — ten years ago to earn a living, soon noticed her son’s fondness for the long-standing genre.

Concerned that Thanh might slip into depression and neglect for schoolwork over an unquenched thirst for music, Van enrolled him in folk singing and 'dan bau' (monochord) classes, despite the instructor’s home being located in Da Nang, around 30 kilometers away.

A smartphone may come in handy for Nguyen Ngoc Thien Thanh (right) in keeping the tempo while playing 'dan bau' (Vietnamese monochord) and keeping him entertained with gigs in other traditional musical instruments in this supplied photo.

A smartphone may come in handy for Nguyen Ngoc Thien Thanh (right) in keeping the tempo while playing 'dan bau,' or Vietnamese monochord, and keeping him entertained with gigs in other traditional musical instruments in this supplied photo.

Van was elated that the training made her son himself again. He even made his way to Da Nang Culture and Art College following his enthralling gigs at a local talent-seeking competition earlier this year.  

Thanh’s instructor held practice sessions at the instructor’s home at night and on weekends to help the boy fit his daytime school schedule. 

As Van already struggled to fend for the whole family, she found it quite a challenge to cover Thanh’s and his elder brother’s tuition fees.

She and her own mother began their daily routines predawn, heading to a local market and preparing breakfast portions, fast food and soft drinks for sale.

Their cart has to be up and running early in the morning to catch the early-bird customers.

Nguyen Tuong Van, Nguyen Ngoc Thien Thanh’s mother, bursts into tears as he pocketed a prize at the Quang Nam Music Got Talent Competition’s Final Round, which took place in the namesake province in central Vietnam in July 2020 in this supplied photo.

Nguyen Tuong Van, Nguyen Ngoc Thien Thanh’s mother, bursts into tears as he pocketed a prize at the Quang Nam Music Got Talent Competition’s Final Round, which took place in the namesake province in central Vietnam in July 2020 in this supplied photo.

Things are much more difficult for them in recent months than in years past following the second outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the government-mandated social distancing policy in place in Da Nang and Quang Nam Province, where hundreds of community transmission cases and most virus-related deaths were recorded starting late July.

As food stalls were shut down during the outbreak, the family hunkered down the pandemic crafting souvenirs which they would sell later on.

They also knitted and donated ear relief cushions to frontliners at Da Nang-based hospitals to help relieve their pain after wearing masks for extended periods in recognition of their efforts in combating the second outbreak in Vietnam.    

Vietnam has documented 1,069 COVID-19 cases, with 991 having recovered and 35 deaths as of Friday, according to Ministry of Health statistics.

The country has gone over three weeks without recording any community-based transmission. 

Nguyen Tuong Van carries her son Nguyen Ngoc Thien Thanh across a bridge in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam towards neighboring Da Nang City in this supplied photo.

Nguyen Tuong Van carries her son Nguyen Ngoc Thien Thanh across a bridge in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam towards neighboring Da Nang in this supplied photo.

Nguyen Ngoc Thien Thanh helps clean things so that his grandmother and mother can get their food cart back on track in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam following a pandemic-caused disruption in this supplied photo.

Nguyen Ngoc Thien Thanh helps clean things so that his grandmother and mother can get their food cart back on track in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam following a pandemic-caused disruption in this supplied photo.

Nguyen Tuong Van (second left), her mother and two sons knit cushions that relieve mask wearers of discomfort in this supplied photo. The family donated more than 300 knitted cushions to frontliners during the lockdown in place to curb the second coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak that hit Da Nang City in central Vietnam and neighboring Quang Nam Province in July 2020.

Nguyen Tuong Van (second left), her mother and two sons knit cushions that relieve mask wearers of discomfort in this supplied photo. The family donated more than 300 knitted cushions to frontliners during the lockdown in place to curb the second coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak that hit Da Nang in central Vietnam and neighboring Quang Nam Province in July 2020.

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Ngoc Hanh - Le Van Anh / Tuoi Tre News

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