Fostering a Love for Vietnamese Music in France

Audiences cheer for Vietnamese traditional music in France presented by veteran artist Ho Thuy Trang
February 07, 2022 | 09:16

Artist Ho Thuy Trang, one of the few Vietnamese individuals recognized by the French government and granted a professor's degree in teaching Vietnamese traditional music, has been celebrating music as a way to preserve national identity. Trang and fellow artists always focus on teaching and passing on musical passion to the younger generation, especially children, in France.

Passionate fire for folk arts

Photo: Thanh Nien Online
Veteran artist Ho Thuy Trang. Photo: Thanh Nien Online

While studying at the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music, Trang started the Hoa Vang Children's Group, consisting of 12 children aged 6-10. Active from 1979 to 1981, the group participated in children's song programs on television stations in HCMC.

In 1999, by receiving an invitation to collaborate with HTV broadcast station, she founded Dan Chim Viet group with members from 3 to 13 years old, and over time, the number of members increased to more than 50 children.

With the theme "My hometown's folk songs," Dan Chim Viet showcased 12 music and dance programs and received much love from the audience.

Soon later Trang decided to start a new life in France, yet her passion for folk arts is still aroused. In 2000, Ms. Trang founded Tieng To Dong group, gathering members of all ages, ranging from 18-75.

Once again, the urge to pass on folk music continued to burn.

“My dream is to continue to inspire generations of Vietnamese children as well as Vietnamese-French ones. Despite the cultural differences and the language barrier, that fire is still burning in me," she shared.

In addition to adult classes for music, dance and percussion for adults, in 2021, Tieng To Dong officially opens a children's dance class led by Instructor Phan Tuong Vi, a children's percussion class taught by Mai Thanh Nam.

There is also Self-defense martial arts by master Ho Bao Loc, folk singing class led by veteran artist Thanh Bach.

Instructor Vi said she has been teaching at the center for about 4 years. She guides dance groups of all ages, and the students love Vietnamese traditional dance.

And in 2021, Tieng To Dong decided to open more classes at a young age, with the desire to bring the traditional culture closer to future generations.

Home is where the heart is

According to Instructor Vi, the children studying at the center can be classified as the fourth generation of Vietnamese migrants, so it is challenging learn Vietnamese culture. The homeland is very far away in distance but Tieng To Dong is trying their best to bring Vietnam close to the children's hearts.

"You can say organizing activities in Tieng To Dong is like the work of hard-working bees, we have to collect every precious bit of "nectar" to cultivate and nurture love for the country from the root,” said Vi.

Hence, children's dance class started in October 2021, and immediately received enthusiastic support from the parents. Ha Thanh Thao, one of the students' parent said that her 3 and 6 years old are taking dance lessons from Tieng To Dong. Both children are half Vietnamese, with both their father and grandmother being French.

Photo: Thanh Nien Online
Thao said the first dance the two children learned was the conical hat dance. Fortunately, she has conical hats, so practicing is easier. Photo: Thanh Nien Online

"Through participating in the dance class, I hope that my children will have the opportunity to communicate and listen to Vietnamese, and learn more about Vietnamese culture. At the beginning, I had to find video clips of Vi's dance group to introduce them to Vietnamese folk dance. My husband also explained to the children that because their mother is Vietnamese the children should know more about their mother's culture," said Thao.

Photo: Thanh Nien Online
Photo: Thanh Nien Online

Another parent added that the main purpose is for children to have the opportunity to interact and communicate in Vietnamese. Also, art allows children to become bolder, and opens up opportunities to develop their souls from a young age. Every time the children go to the center, it is also an opportunity for the whole family to go out on the weekend, creating a bond in family members.

Taking one step at a time

Vi shared this is just the beginning. In the future, she hopes the melody of the homeland will permeate the dreams and hearts of the young souls, and love for Vietnam will germinate and grow on its own.

Photo: Thanh Nien Online
Photo: Thanh Nien Online

Ho Thuy Trang understands language-related barriers in teaching children. “Some children have never seen conical hats in real life, and they rarely have the opportunity to wear traditional costumes, so every lesson brings interesting discoveries. After each lesson, the children stills sing songs and rhymes in Vietnamese when they left. And that brings me so much joy said Trang.

Photo: Thanh Nien Online
As France lifted the blockade and isolation orders to prevent the epidemic, in July 2021, Trang and her team collaborated with the city of Ermont (north of Paris) to organize Vietnamese folk music week. Photo: Thanh Nien Online

The special thing about Trang's classes is that they are introducing and promoting Vietnamese music through musical instruments. Tieng To Dong always take advantage of exchange opportunities to bring musical instruments, allowing locals and children to interact with Vietnamese culture. The sound of the instrument alone rings two words; "Vietnam".

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