Connoisseur of the past

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The 30-year-old man finds his true love for a hundred-year-old art.

Living in Dallas, Texas in the United States, Tony is best known as "Tony Be Dallas," but he's been sharing his unique Vietnamese collection and those close to him know he is more cultured than the nick name suggests.

He has over a thousand old recordings and cassettes of cai luong ("reformed theater" or "renovated theater," a form of modern folk opera in Vietnam), and does his utmost to revive the traditional art performance for the youth overseas.

As I stepped into Tony's record room, his passion warmed my heart, especially when listening to once-popular plays like Vo Dong Son Bach Thu Ha, Ton Tan gia dien, Nhat kiem ba vuong and the voices of late artists including Nam Nghia, Kim Chuong, Thuy Nga, Van Huong and Kim Quang.

The collection has several rare records, which cannot be found in Vietnam.

Not many people will have the chance to listen to Thanh Nga, one of Vietnam's most celebrated cai luong artists during the late 1960s, singing at the age of 12.  The historic collection also includes Huong Lan, noted cai luong and folk-song singer, singing with famous artist Huu Phuoc when they were nine-year-old kids.

Another special thing in the young connoisseur's collection is vong co (short cai luong songs called "longing for the past") which were composed during the Vietnam war and reflect the heroic revolutionary tradition.

"I took a fancy to cai luong at the age of 10. All my savings were spent on buying parts of the current collection. Taking care of my babies is my biggest pleasure," said Tony.

Tony left Vietnam at the age of 27 and came to the US with his father. He said he brought along nothing but 3 cases of cai luong records.

The first thing he did was build a small music room with modern record players to listen to his favorite cai luong plays and songs.

Tony said that many of his young friends share his love for cai luong. "They usually come to his house on weekends to listen to his the recordings and then we discuss them," he said.

The excellent "vong co" songs have been spread via email from Tony's room to more youngsters in the US, Australia, Japan, France, and the UK.

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