Baring the 'Hidden Charm'

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Premier cultural extravaganza does much more than dazzle and entertain

Dancer Linh Nga in the foreground of a junk left alone in a lotus lake, evoked much
emotion from the audience in the 21st Charming Vietnam Gala.

Charming Vietnam is a top notch music concert. It is a glitzy fashion show. It is high-end entertainment and a major charity event.

But in the end it is more than the sum of all of these things.

As the curtains went up on the 15th anniversary of Charming Vietnam Gala on the last day of 2009, the Nguyen Thai Binh Scholarship for 8,787 underprivileged and outstanding students, raised more than VND 15 billion (US$811,820).


Pham Quynh Anh considers the 21 st Charming Vietnam Gala as a great time to find out more about her homeland’s contemporary art

Vietnamese-Belgian singer Pham Quynh Anh, who rose to fame with the smash-hit “Bonjour Vietnam” three years ago, and who opened the second part of the show with the same song, said just before the show: “I think this event will be a great time for me to find out more about Vietnamese music and artists. I will perform ‘Bonjour Vietnam’ and another song named ‘I say gold.’”

Although the 22-year-old singer is of Vietnamese origin, she admitted that her grasp of the language was very weak. Singing Vietnamese songs, even her favorites, was “really challenging,” she told Thanh Nien. But like the event, she stressed an identity that transcends borders.

Talking to Tuoi Tre newspaper about “I say gold,” Anh said that the song was about herself and many other “yellow folks,” not just Vietnamese but other yellow people in all corners of the world. Anh said it was not the skin that decided one’s “true color.”


The show is taking place at Hoa Binh Theater at 240-242 Ba Thang Hai Street, District 10 on four days: Dec 31, Jan 1, 2, 3.

Event director Dinh Anh Dung said pictures made of sand will be the main storytellers in the 21 st Vietnam Gala. On a sandy background, artist Tri Duc will draw images and change them, based on the leitmotif of each song.

Other Charming Vietnam trivia:

My Linh holds the record for the maximum performances by a female singer at the event, having taken the stage 15 times, while Quang Dung holds the record for male singers with 10. Beauty queen Ha Kieu Anh has joined the event 15 times. The late Huynh Phuc Dien directed the show eight times and danseuse Thao Dung has performed 18 times. Singer My Tam performed with the longest dress that stretched as far as 60 meters.

“Up to now, the happiest moment of my life was receiving the Nguyen Thai Binh scholarship. It is not only about how the money will help me prevail over a hard situation, but the invaluable meaning behind it that has encouraged me a lot. I realize that I was wrapped in many people’s care,” said Hong Thuong, one of the scholarship winners.

“I am really happy that the scholarship has fulfilled many young people’s dreams to study,” said Nguyen Cong Khe, head organizer of the event and chairman of Thanh Nien Media Corporation.

He noted that alongside the Nguyen Thai Binh Scholarship in 1991was the Vietnam Talent Fund (VTF) that was started in 2006. Whereas the former helped the underprivileged, the latter rewarded outstanding talents selected by several renowned Vietnamese scientists, academics and politicians. The organizers expect the winners to contribute their talents to the country.

Accolades galore

The 21st Charming Vietnam Gala will, as it has done in the past, develop and promote contemporary Vietnamese culture and entertainment while helping artists hone their abilities and boost their careers, Khe said.

“The show not only meets the local youth’s demand for entertainment but also that of overseas Vietnamese and foreigners. Through its unique and delectable feasts, Charming Vietnam, has been complimented by the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as being eligible to represent Vietnam’s captivating culture on the international stage,” he added.

Looking back at the 15 years of organizing the shows, Khe said his most noteworthy memories were the appreciation of British, Singaporean and Australian heads of state, and the precious affection it has received from Vietnamese expats.

After the 20th Charming Vietnam gala held in London’s Westminster Hall March 2008, a letter arrived from Buckingham Palace.

“Traditional values mix with the modern realities of a rapidly developing nation in a unique way. I believe that the Charming Vietnam event will become an excellent opportunity for us to find out more about Vietnam’s fascinating culture.

As such, events such as Charming Vietnam are an excellent opportunity for us to broaden our understanding,” wrote Prince Andrew, who paid his second visit to Vietnam last October.

In 2007, after the 18th show was a huge success in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong confirmed that Charming Vietnam Gala had enhanced the level of bilateral cultural exchanges between the two countries.

“Moreover, it was moving to see many overseas compatriots, even from remote areas, try to come to the shows. It was not just the audience, but (overseas Vietnamese) artists who saw Charming Vietnam as a chance for them to gather and look back at their roots. We have received many invitations to stage the show overseas.

“I also hope to organize the show twice a year, one at home and one overseas. This could boost tourism in the host cities or provinces. Phu Yen Province, for instance, has offered to host the next gala,” said Khe.

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