Foreign Artists Find Inspiration From Vietnamese Epic Luc Van Tien
A Swedish singer-songwriter recently performed a song she wrote, inspiring by the epic Luc Van Tien of Vietnamese poet Nguyen Dinh Chieu at the latter's 200th birth anniversary celebration in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre.
Nguyen Dinh Chieu (1822 – 1888) was born in Binh Duong, Gia Dinh province (now District 1, Ho Chi Minh City). He was a patriotic teacher, physician and poet of southern Vietnam in the second half of the 19th century, according to VNA.
|A painting from the book Luc Van Tien (The Tale of Luc Van Tien), an epic poem with 2,076 lines by late poet and teacher Nguyễn Đình Chiểu (1822 – 1888), one of the country’s leading writers in the 19th century. Photo courtesy of the Culture & Art Publishing House|
At around age 24, Chieu contracted an eye infection and was soon blind. Just before this infection, he learned of his mother’s death, and according to legend, Chieu was so heartbroken he was said to have gone blind with grief.
He opened a small school to teach poor students in Gia Dinh. He was also a popular medical practitioner who offered treatment for local people. He later moved to Can Giuoc in Long An province (now Ben Tre province), where he died.
Nguyen Dinh Chieu (1822 – 1888) is among the World Cultural Celebrities whose birth and death anniversaries will be commemorated by UNESCO between 2022 and 2023.
The decision was made during the ongoing 41st General Conference of UNESCO in Paris on November 23 last year.
UNESCO has commemorated the birth anniversaries of four Vietnamese celebrities, including the late President Ho Chi Minh, educator Chu Van An, and poets Nguyen Du and Nguyen Trai.
His most famous work, Luc Van Tien (The Tale of Luc Van Tien), is an epic poem written in nom (the old Chinese-based Vietnamese script) was penned in the 1850s. It is regarded as one of the most influential poems in Vietnamese history, along with Truyen Kieu (The Tale of Kieu) by Nguyen Du.
The 2,076 line-work highlights the culture and lifestyle of southern people. Topics of love, loyalty, bravery and fair justice are featured.
The epic is used in textbooks for secondary high school students. It has been translated into many languages, including French, English and Japanese.
It has been adapted into many theatre plays of cai luong (reformed opera) and tuong (classical drama) as well as movies, and translated into multiple languages, including French, English and Japanese.
In Ben Tre province, a ceremony to honour and celebrate Chieu’s 200th birthday has been took place at the Nguyen Dinh Chieu Temple, where the tomb and monument of the poet are located.
Le Quy Duong, the show's general director, gathered numerous worldwide performers to spread the influence and popularity of Luc Van Tien, a famous epic by Chieu.
Swedish singer-songwriter Tamela Hedstrom has been visited Vietnam and performed her song at the celebration of Nguyen Dinh Chieu's 200th birthday in Ben Tre.
Tamela admitted that when director Duong disclosed his plan to invite her to make a song inspired by the epic Luc Van Tien, she was a bit surprised because she was unfamiliar with it at the time.
However, she accepted the offer because she had previously met Duong at the 2020 Fujairah International Art Festival (UAE) and valued the chance to collaborate with him.
|Swedish singer-songwriter Tamela Hedstrom and artists perform at the celebration of Nguyen Dinh Chieu's 200th birthday in Ben Tre. Photo courtesy of the singer-songwriter.|
"Director Le Quy Duong told me about the renowned poet Nguyen Dinh Chieu and the poem Luc Van Tien, and we explored the possibility of performing an art programme in Chieu's honour," Tamela said.
She also expressed her initial impression of Luc Van Tien as a beautiful and enthralling tale that advises everyone to overcome adversity.
The Swedish artist stated that she began reading Luc Van Tien in English and took note of all the wonderful features and messages that were included inside.
"A visual of the characters and other details popped into my head while I was reading. From there, the tunes just kept coming to me,” she recalled.
The female musician was then inspired to write a ballad after reading the famous Vietnamese epic and putting the fascinating details she gained into her lyrics. "This humanity story still has a place in Vietnamese literature after hundreds of years. Luc Van Tien is a piece that I feel everyone in the world can appreciate it if given the chance."
Another artist, French percussionist Dominique Henry Probst composed a chamber piece in the European style named The Lamentation of Nguyet Nga.
Probst has known director Duong since the late 1990s when they collaborated on the contemporary opera Motherland.
|Swedish singer-songwriter Tamela Hedstrom and French percussionist Dominique Henry Probst. Photo courtesy of the singer-songwriter|
The French artist stated that he first heard the blind poet Nguyen Dinh Chieu and his work Luc Van Tien through Duong. Later, he also discovered a magnificent copy of Luc Van Tien published by the French School of the Far East.
"I read this tale with intrigue and fascination because it's entrenched in tradition and full of innocent sentiments, while also emanating deep philosophical ideas about human emotions," he said.
The pure and persistent love of the two main characters, Kieu Nguyet Nga and Luc Van Tien, deeply moved Dominique. He decided to compose the Lamentation of Nguyet Nga.
The composition opened with a solo percussion prelude performed by Dominique, followed by a Vietnamese-speaking part. Artist My Dung performed the piano part before switching to the performance in French and English by two female vocalists. Artist Tran Vuong Thach served as the conductor.
Dominique regarded his return to Vietnam as a tremendous honour and feels that the worth of Luc Van Tien is universal and accessible in many languages.
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