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Young musician behind Vietnam’s globally famous COVID-19 PSA

Sunday, March 29, 2020, 11:18 GMT+7
Young musician behind Vietnam’s globally famous COVID-19 PSA
Khac Hung is seen in a photo posted on his verified Facebook account.

‘Ghen Co Vy,’ a parody song meant to increase awareness of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Vietnam, has become a surprise global hit after being featured on John Oliver’s late-night talk and news satire television program ‘Last Week Tonight’ earlier this month, where it was praised by the host as an “incredible public information video.”

Ghen Cô Vy| NIOEH x K.HƯNG x MIN x ERIK | WASHING HAND SONG | CORONA SONG

Now, barely a month since its release, ‘Ghen Co Vy’ has surpassed 25.4 million views on YouTube and inspired hundreds of fans to upload videos of themselves performing its accompanying dance, 'Vu Dieu Rua Tay’ (Handwashing Dance) by Quang Dang, on Chinese video sharing platform TikTok with tag #GhenCoVyChallenge.

The parody song, a COVID-19-themed spoof of the 2017 hit song ‘Ghen’ by Min and Erik, was recorded by the original singers and produced by local musician Khac Hung at the request of a Ministry of Health agency.

Khac Hung (C) with singers Min (R) and Erik are seen in a photo posted on Erik's verified Facebook account

Khac Hung (C) with singers Min (R) and Erik are seen in a photo posted on Erik's verified Facebook account.

Specifically, the parody version offers listeners a list of do’s and don’ts, such as handwashing and social isolation, that can help prevent the spread of the viral disease.

‘Ghen Co Vy’ is a compound of the song’s original title, ‘Ghen’ (Jealous), and ‘CoV’ – Vietnamese shorthand for coronavirus.

Khac Hung, the 28-year-old musician who produced the hit song, sat down for a recent interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper to discuss the viral success of ‘Ghen Co Vy’ and how it fits his overall vision for the future of Vietnamese music on the global stage.  

“I’m lucky. Thanks to ‘Ghen Co Vy’ I’ve been mentioned a lot in the media,” Khac Hung said.

“I also feel a bit ashamed because there are many people who have sacrificed more and deserve to be mentioned more than me, like the doctors and soldiers manning the frontline of the fight against the epidemic,” he explained.

Khac Hung also attributed much of his success to the popularity of Quang Dang’s ‘Handwashing Dance’ done to the song.

“Quang Dang’s popular dance really helpes viewers in other countries better understand the song’s message,” he shared.

Handwashing Dance - Ghen Co Vy by Quang Dang

According to Khac Hung, much of the inspiration for his songs is drawn from a childhood spent listening to U.S.-UK hits.

“My music is written in Vietnamese and has a Vietnamese soul, but I grew up listening to foreign music," he admitted.

"For example, 'Ghen Co Vy’ is heavily influenced by foreign music so it’s well received when showcased to world audiences,” he added.

“If my songs’ lyrics were rewritten in English, they would sound exactly like U.S.-UK songs,” Khac Hung confessed.

Khac Hung explained that he became a music producer to “create songs with foreign influence that still match Vietnamese culture.”

“First, ‘Ghen’ became popular with Vietnamese people and then ‘Ghen Co Vy.’ But each song’s foreign influence can only be recognized by professionals," he said. 

“Most viewers receive the song in a natural way.”

Khac Hung also is not shy about sharing his vision for the future of Vietnamese music on the global stage.  

“Music has no boundary,” he said. 

“Music has universal significance, the fact that Westerners love Japanese and Korean music is very clear proof of that.

"For Vietnamese music to claim a spot on the world’s stage, there needs to be a combination of many factors.

“We have to enhance the image of Vietnamese music. When it comes to the world, it's not just the music that matters, it's the image as well. Artists must have a good image in addition to a good voice.”

According to Hung, ‘Ghen Co Vy’ introduces a positive image of Vietnam thanks to its portrayal of the country’s people and government as determined to stop COVID-19 in its track.

It makes foreign audiences admire the Vietnamese, he said.

Commenting on requests for translating ‘Ghen Co Vy’ into other languages as well as opinions about Vietnamese music's disadvantage as Vietnamese is not very popular, Hung said that “a nation's identity is not necessarily only expressed through language.”

“K-pop songs are also sung in Korean, but what is more important is the identity and uniqueness of the music,” Hung explained, adding that Vietnam is still in the early stage of branding its music industry, but “we can do it through sound and imagery.”

“People don’t necessarily need to know the Vietnamese language to recognize Vietnamese music,” he insisted.

A screenshot shows host John Oliver dance to Quang Dang's Handwashing Dance on Last Week Tonight program in March, 2020.

A screenshot shows host John Oliver dance to Quang Dang's Handwashing Dance on Last Week Tonight program in March 2020.

I want to thank Khac Hung for his comments on my ‘Handwashing Dance.’ I think ‘Ghen Co Vy’ and ‘Handwashing Dance’ work together to bring Vietnamese values to the world. When the song and dance combined, they helped Vietnamese values spread around the globe.

My dream is to bring Vietnamese dancing to the world. Through the ‘Handwashing Dance,’ I took my first steps down that path. But since ‘Ghen Co Vy’ and ‘Handwashing Dance’, what I have really cared about is how the image of Vietnam is highlighted in the eyes of our international friends. I hope that image is ‘beautiful, united, and positive.’

Vietnamese dancer Quang Dang

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