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No banks By Nathalie Sokolovskaya For Khanh Ly
While being in Vietnam more than 4 years I ve never thought of a Vietnamese music to be a sort of a thing to admire . Vietnam ,undoubtedly, possess a richest musical palette,made of multicolored vocal and instrumental streams coming from three regions of the country:the North ,The Center and The South with its independent original traditions,from rice fields,village festivals ,descending from the mountainous regions ,inhabitated by ethnic minorities with their original musical culture. The range of musical instruments varies greatly and makes a bright example of people creativeness and inventiveness with the most unmusical objects one can imagine,as a bamboo stick or a set of tiny tea cups turned into to a source of amazing sounds of music. Vietnamese are extremely singing nation.It is one of a few countries where people go to karaoke to sing devoutly ,but not to drink .The last fact shakes the author’s Russian mentality at its very basis. As Vietnamese with its 6 tones is really melodic,here even the voices of street vendors crying their wires in small lanes turn into fanciful songs and a trip to a market gives an impression of going to some feerique musical comedy. All this tuneful pathchwork attracts as something unfamiliar and exotic to ones ears and eyes but its true charm and lyrism stays hardly accessible to foreigners,hidden under biting bright costumes and luscious make-up of singers and musians at performances destined for tourists. However, a visit of floating folk concert of hat van in Hue ,taking place while a wooden boat takes the attending audience through tranquil waters of a broad river at a dawn or a visit to Cai Luong renovated opera in Hochiminh-city,which represents an amazing combination of authentic Vietnamese folk music and vocal traditions with these of French operetta ,inherited from colonial times,will surely compose an interesting experience.Interesting,but barely profoundly inspiring. But when it comes for one voice..Once in Dalat, while passing by some cafe I heard a voice that struck as a full moon in the deep night,a wind in tops of pines high in the mountains , a sough of lieves in the very deep of a forest , the voice of wild flowers if they started to speak a human language all of a sudden, or as sound of a bell from a chapel in a misty morning echoed in absolute silence could strike .The voice not of a singer but of a heart,of a soul. The voice of Khanh Ly. In order not to get in excessive emotions ,for which I would be inevitably punished by the Editorial Board ,I am only to say that the voice of this Vietnamese lady-singer has fascinated not only me but the millions in Vietnam,Japan, has kept a spell on those many who had a chance to listen to it in Germany, Paris,United States, Russia. Khanh Ly’s career of a singer began right in Dalat 40 years before I heard her records there, where she came from the Northern Vietnam.Greatly inspired by the romantic beauty of this mountainous city,she stayed there for fur years singing in various cafes till the day of a fateful meeting with Trinh Cong Son ,a young not yet famous music composer and song writer.This artistic union has soon lifted the both on the very peak of the fame in Vietnam.They started to perform together from 1967 at stages of university campuses,various artistic cafes and clubs in Saigon, gathering the crowds of admiring listeners. The old records of those days impress by the true beauty of the voices, accompanied by guitar and the unique atmosphere created on a stage,that is being vividly felt even now, many years after.The inimitable luring voice of Khanh Ly and lyrics of Trinh Cong Son ,deeply philosophical,romantic ,overwhelmingly beautiful,their plea for peace during the bloody and unwanted war, gained an unprecedent fame for the participants of this tandem .They were known,heard and admired throughout all Vietnam from universities stages of the big cities to the small villages in the deepest countryside. Khanh Ly has soon started to hold her own solo concerts.Sponsored by Vietnamese government she held performances in the United States and Canada.Soon after the singer has been invited to Japan,where she recorded an album on Trinh Cong Son lyrics,sang both in Vietnamese and Japanese,that went gold
shortly after its release.The songs became top hits in Japan and stayed these for several decades . And Khanh Ly became the first Vietnamese singer(and the last till today)to gain international fame. In 1975 she emigrated to the United States.Then it was Russia,Germany and France who applauded for her.Her second album with Nippon Columbia with 2million copies sold in Japan alone. Today she is living in California,running her own production company and writing columns for Vietnamese newspapers and magazines throughout the world. Khanh Ly also dedicates the great part of her time to humanitarian acts and charity organizations helping Vietnamese abroad. Her voice stays as mesmerizing as it has always been.Inimitable , with a fascinating flame within and glittering edging.As she sings as she breaths and as her heart beats. And Dalat , a city where her vertiginous career has started ,stays one of her most faithful admirers many years after. If anyone asked what is DAlat for me,I would answer it’s the mountainous wind soughing in the pines,the morning mist above Xuan Huong lake,old French villas, school children in multicoloured woolen blousons,eldery people wearing berets and scarfs a la made francaise of early 40s,breathtakingly beautiful sunsets,which can only be contemplated high in the mountains,living past ,taking a stroll along old quarter at tha dawn and the voice of Khanh Ly,pouring out from windows of houses, terrasses of cafes,harmonizing perfectly with a city s spirit. The city possess several places where one can a truly private concert of Khanh Ly.Though recorded but barely defeating to this alive. One is a small old French style café Tung in the very heart of old Hoa Binh quarter, behind central cinema which claims to be the place where Trinh Cong Son has heard Khanh Ly sing for the first time.The interior and furniture also seem to be kept untouched and unchanged from that very moment .It still stays a rendez-vous café of local artistic beau monde and worth visiting anyway ,even if one is not a melomane. The “One hundred roofs ” café on Phan Boi Chau street ,a fanciful beton creation of local architect Lu Truc Phuong that can be called an amazing music frozen in stone, a private museum of Vietnamese history full of interesting exhibits all made with author’s hands and accommodated within 6 storeys(one – under the ground and 5 above,fully hand –made by the architect as well),a space of unbelievable shapes and sophisticated ornaments but can hardly be called a house.In the evening this incredible construction may also become an unusual concert hall for one as it has become for the author.With coffe tables hidden in the niches and the sophisticated net of paths of this café-delire,while listening to Khanh Ly singing,one can freely imagine himself being a millionaire who bought out all seats in Brighton or Chicago concert halls to become a single spectator and listener of his favorite diva’s show.Or imagine himself a poor painter who did the same as millionaire but after having sold everything he possessed to buy the tickets and a million of roses for the diva.Depending on one’s preferences and the height of one’s fantasy flight.It’s better to come here after 8 pm on weekdays when the café is almost empty.Its probably the best time for one’s private concert to be started..As the voice of Khanh ly is impossible to share with someone else and it never can be listened as a backphone for something.It covers as a dense fog at night in the mountains.There is only voice.No time,no space,no conventions and squabbles of life left .There is some feeling rising from the very deep of one’s soul singing in perfect duet with the voice of a singer. To some it will give an impression of a fall from some rocky narrow road,after misstepping over an unstable stone , the fall from incredible height right into a small sampan that accidently happened to drift by on a river ,flowing below.The river has no banks.This river is probably of one’s emotions and impressions.And the wind that makes the boat move is the voice of a singer. Others the voice of Khanh Ly ll take under street lights-the eyes of the night to watch dry leaves fall and spin in their last danse. Some listeners would probably happen to watch a breathtaking sunset high in the mountains with a voice of a singer as a wind in tops of pines. This café in Dalat may definitely become a place where one’s amazing journey on a mysterious river with the hypnotizing voice of Khanh Ly as a wind in the sails will start.
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