A return to the roots

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  Composer and producer Quoc Trung (R) at a news conference in Hanoi on August 27 to introduce the first concert of his world music project Nguon coi (The Roots), as Tunisian composer, singer and oud player Dhafer Youssef (C), and Moroccan-German percussionist Rhani Krija look on. Rhani Krija and Dhafer Youssef have joined the project, which features Vietnamese folk songs mixed with melodies from the Arab world and Africa.
Photos courtesy of Mai Thanh and nguon coi project organizers

"World music" was virtually unheard of in Vietnam until composer and producer Nguyen Quoc Trung put on his "The Road to Infinity" world music festival ten years ago.

Now he's doing the same thing, but this time he says it's bigger and better and it's called The Roots (Nguon coi).

Local pop diva Thanh Lam, up-and-coming singer Kieu Anh, Vietnamese-French jazz artist Nguyen Le, Tunisian composer, singer and oud player Dhafer Youssef, and Moroccan-German percussionist Rhani Krija have all joined the project, with Trung at the helm.

Nguon coi will stage performances that combine traditional Vietnamese music with world music, featuring jazz, electronic music, experimental music and folk traditions from around the globe.

Trung says that Nguon coi will feature a broader spectrum of musical genres than "The Road to Infinity" (Duong xa van dam), and will seek to mix the oldest genres with the newest ones, bringing traditional folk art into the present.

Known for being a demanding artist who only undertakes high-quality projects, Trung said he was thrilled to finally have confirmations from all the foreign artists he wanted, after a year of arrangements.

Vietnamese-French jazz artist Nguyen Le (Top) and pop diva Thanh Lam have joined Quoc Trung's world music project Nguon coi (The Roots)
"I've always wanted to work with Nguyen Le and luckily he has agreed to join me this time," he said. "Nguyen Le, Dhafer, Rhani, Thanh Lam, and Kieu Anh are all following world music styles but all also have a special love for the traditional folk music of their countries. And so I decided to invite them to return to our "˜roots' with our traditional folk music via modern means of world music. Vietnamese folk songs will be mixed with typical melodies from the Arab world and Africa."

Trung said he wanted to introduce and promote Vietnamese folk and traditional music to the world.

"This will create chances for local artists to meet and work with other musicians from different countries and let their music go beyond their countries to audiences around the world."

The project will include the recording of two albums: "Nguon coi" (The Roots) by Quoc Trung and the other by his former wife, singer Thanh Lam, who is considered one of Vietnam's top four contemporary divas alongside My Linh, Hong Nhung and Tran Thu Ha.

Trung said the albums will be written by both local and international composers and once completed, they will be released in Vietnam and at international music festivals.

Nguyen Le said that he has wanted to work with Trung since the two met in 2004. But contractual agreements in France barred him from accepting Trung's invitation for "The Road to Infinity."

"Fortunately, when Trung told me about Nguon coi last year, I was able to join," Le said. "I really liked the idea and worked with Trung to invite Dhafer and Rhani. The four of us share many views, including our wishes to introduce our traditional music to the world, so we get along very well with work."

The Beginning

On September 1, Trung and his team will hold the project's first concert Khoi nguon (The Roots' Beginning) at the Hanoi Opera House, 1 Trang Tien Street.

The 80-minute show will be divided into three parts.

First, Le and Dhafer will play some Vietnamese folk songs that Le has remixed such as Cay truc xinh, (The Graceful Small Bamboo), Thang Long and Ly muoi thuong (A Folk Song Gives 10 Reasons to Love You).

The second part will feature Trung's latest works and some old songs from "The Road to Infinity" like Vong nguyet (Wishing Upon the Moon), Dong song mot bo (The River with One Bank) and Luu lac (Drifting Away) but remixed and performed by new artists. They will be mixes of Vietnamese traditional and world music.

And in the last part, Thanh Lam will perform songs from her latest album remixed by Quoc Trung and Nguyen Le into a variety of international styles.

Trung also said that young singer Kieu Anh, who has become known for her traditional ca tru (historic Vietnamese chamber music) performances produced by Trung last year, will also perform with Nguon coi.

"Although Kieu Anh is only 18, I still invited her to my project because she was born into a family of traditional ca tru artists in Hanoi and has been studying traditional Vietnamese musical instruments," Trung explained. "I've worked with her for two years and I think that she can become a major singer of world music."

Tickets for the show cost VND500,000 to 2.5 million and are available at the Hanoi Opera House and via website www.vntic.vn.

After the show, the troupe will continue their work in Hanoi and Trung hopes that Nguon coi will be able to travel even further.

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