Amidst the heated controversy on the quality of local pop songs and singers following a veteran composer’s critical comments on them, Kyo York, an American singer-actor and Paul Weinig, head of the Ho Chi Minh City Goethe Institute, who are working in the city, had something to share.
In a recent interview with a local newswire, 73-year-old, revered composer Nguyen Anh 9 gave several critical, untactful comments on several of the country’s divas, internationally and locally prize-winning pop singers.
This triggered mixed reactions from the singers themselves, their fans and other members of the public. Some were outraged at the composer’s critical comments, but many showed support for him, adding that many of today’s pop singers are going downhill regarding their singing voices, techniques and failure to express the soul of the songs.
Kyo York, who has worked in Vietnam for over four years now as an English teacher, singer and actor, shared his opinions with Tuoi Tre on the issue.
During his university years in the US, Kyo took part in over 40 operas and went on performing tours around the world. Shortly after he arrived in Vietnam, he was struck right at first sight with the emotional, profound songs by such Vietnamese composers as Trinh Cong Son.
After learning the Vietnamese language for three years, the American man, who now speaks impeccable Vietnamese, began to perform his favorite Vietnamese music genre as an amateur singer.
“I always sing my heart out and try my best to express the soul and beauty of the songs,” Kyo shared.
He added that though some investors invited him to work for their companies to develop the image of a pop singer- entertainer, he feels much more comfortable performing profound songs which feature beautiful lyrics and wondrous music.
“An elderly woman once held my hand and sobbed after listening to my songs, and local youths on Facebook and blogs thanked me for helping them return to and appreciate their country’s music,” he shared further.
Kyo added that previously his foreign friends hardly knew about Vietnamese music, but after he analyzed the beauty of some songs by Trinh Cong Son and Pham Duy, two of the country’s most revered composers, they were instantly bewitched and deeply moved by the lyrics.
“I never criticize pop and singers who adopt this genre. I myself sometimes choose such songs during exchanges with students. The thing that counts is I always carefully pick and understand thoroughly what I’m going to sing and convey to the audiences,” Kyo stressed.
“As a foreign artist, I think that the Vietnamese music scene was intertwined with old and new values. The thing that counts is that singers and composers should pay due respect to the music, otherwise they’ll get astray. There’re many gifted singers in Vietnam, but they’re competing in an overcrowded place. I think with proper orientation, genuine dedication and serious training, many of them will shine on the regional and global arena,” he commented.
Meanwhile, Dr. Paul Weinig, head of the Ho Chi Minh City Goethe Institute, pointed out that though many Vietnamese people are passionate about singing and are quite gifted, few of them are properly trained. This is why entertaining pop singers considerably outnumber serious classical and jazz artists in Vietnam.
“In my opinion, Vietnamese pop singers are unlikely to succeed on the global arena. One of the major hurdles is that they usually don’t write songs, they mostly perform someone else’s songs. They also lack proper training in both theory and practice, which also hampers their creativity,” Weinig added.
The expert urged that local schools offer more classes in music and art to discover and nurture their students’ potentials from the very beginning.