Charming Vietnam: a fresh mix of the old and the new

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Pop singer Ho Ngoc Ha performed at musical gala Charming Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City December 2011. Ha will share the stage with celebrated singers Thu Minh, My Tam and others at the 26th edition of the gala in January. Photo by Dao Ngoc Thach

The nation's prominent musical gala, Charming Vietnam, will open yet another chapter in mingling nostalgia with contemporary arts by bringing back the director of its earliest editions.

The 26th edition of the gala, organized by the Thanh Nien Media Corporation to raise funds for disadvantaged and well-performing students, will take place on January 10 and 11, 2014 at Hoa Binh Theater, 240 Ba Thang Hai Street, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City.

It will be directed by Tat My Loan, the gala's director for the first four editions since 1994 and arts consultant for the 24th edition in early 2011. Ho Chi Minh City has been the most frequent venue for the event, which has been held several times in Hanoi, as also in the coastal central towns of Nha Trang and Tuy Hoa, the Central Highlands town of Buon Ma Thuot, Australia, Singapore and the UK.

"I'm just standing behind to connect four young talented people that I am confident will breathe fresh air into the proceedings, transforming the gala's image," Loan said.

The four talented people are choreographers Tan Loc and Linh Rateau, the latter a French-Vietnamese art director at ballet and contemporary dance school Dancenter in Ho Chi Minh City, Tuan Andrew Nguyen, an art director and producer who is a graduate of the California Art Institute, and Tuan Le, German-Vietnamese director of world's famous modern circus, Lang Toi (My Village). Le became the first Asian to win the Award of Excellence from the International Jugglers' Association in 2010.

"They are four people with different styles and they have made high-level accomplishments that I have not been able to achieve," Loan said.

He said the gala this time is themed "Thuong qua Viet Nam" (Beloved Vietnam), seeking to encapsulate the emotions of Vietnamese living abroad as well as the artists coming home with iconic performances for the show.

Linh Rateau will start the show with a dance act for Bonjour Vietnam, Tan Loc will put in a performance with rice plants, Tuan Andrew, a hip hop dance, and Tuan Le, a bamboo-based act. 

The show will be joined by leading singers including My Tam and Thu Minh, both of whom won Best Asian Artist prizes at the Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), top 8 Australian Idol Thanh Bui, Ho Ngoc Ha as well as overseas Vietnamese singers Elvis Phuong and Huong Lan.

Loan said the latest edition aims to combine all the acts into a whole instead of separating singers and dancers and fashion models as in previous editions.

But the main combination is between the old and new, and with that, the ending act might be something of a surprise.

He said there will be an improvisation act near the end of the show between French Vietnamese jazz fusion guitarist Nguyen Le, dan tranh (16-stringed zither) performer Thanh Hai, saxophone maestro Tran Manh Tuan and pop songwriter Duc Tri.

Then they will leave the stage for My Tam, Southeast Asia's nominee for MTV Europe Music Awards 2013, to close the show with an acoustic guitar performance of a new song, "Tieng Viet," (Vietnamese Language) which uses the lyrics from a poem of the same name and music written by Tri.

The poem describes Vietnamese language as a strong reminder of the country's history, landscapes and sovereignty, traditions and family values, so each member of the audience only needs to remember a short section of it and keep it in their own emotions to make the show a success, Loan said.

"Let's feel it together, so that anyone anywhere remembers the Vietnamese language."

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