Pride and prejudice

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Thanh Bui has already become an Asian star in Australia and is on his way to becoming an Australian star in Vietnam. Now he wants to be a Vietnamese star in the US.

Thanh Bui was the first Asian to make it to the top 8 in Australian Idol in 2008, and though he didn't win, he was happy with his crooning performance and proud to be himself.

"I'm not a rocker, I'm not a bloke's bloke," he said at the time. "I'm more soul, pop and R&B."

Now, the Adelaide 27-year-old is coming back home to be himself. With his first appearance at Villa Fb last month, the singer and composer impressed most guests with his perfect performance.

"˜Winner takes it all'

For Bui, choosing a career in music was a no-brainer.

"My mom wanted me to become a doctor, and my dad's wish was that I would be a lawyer. I know those jobs would help me make more money, but those are not my life. Music comes to me naturally and I think I was born for it," said Bui.

Though Bui's striking rendition of "The Winner Takes It All" did not win Australian Idol, it won him fans in both Australia and Vietnam, where Abba is still larger than life.

And luckily for his career in Vietnam, he can still woo audiences with fluent Vietnamese.

Humble roots

As a young man, Bui wasn't sure what to do with his life but he knew he would have to support his family.

"My parents came to Australia in 1982, and they had nothing. They had to work around 100 hours per week for 20 years on end to raise us."

He says they are now retired and enjoy dancing and karaoke. Sometimes they also sing cai luong (Southern Opera).

"When I was young, I wanted to be [Chinese-American tennis star] Michael Chang. But at the age of 17, I met my fate after singing "˜I'll Make Love to You' [by American R&B group Boyz II Men]. Then, I knew I was born to be a singer."

He had been singing since he was ten but it wasn't until he graduated from an IT technical school in 2004 that his career began in earnest.

He struck success as a member of boy band sensation "North" for four years. Bui carried many of group's bigger hits. With the group and alone he has composed more than 150 pop songs.

"My songs came from myself. They are my sentiments. I'm happy when the audiences like them"

North dissolved in 2007 and Bui's turning point was when he signed up for Australian Idol 2008.

Thanh Bui is now a somewhat familiar name with local audiences. His emotional duet "Lang tham mot tinh yeu" (Silent Love) with pop sensation Ho Ngoc Ha in noted director Charlie Nguyen's romantic film De Mai Tinh (Fool for Love) has drawn much attention from both the public and critics.

Grammy dreams

For Bui, Australian Idol was a great experience and big challenge. But most importantly it introduced him to his Aussie manager David Rowley.

The result of their collaboration will be Bui's debut solo album, which is planned for release in August this year. Bui is also composing songs for several noted Asian bands like Kat-tun and DBSK (better known as TVXQ).

Bui also owns the International Artist Academy and Yin Yang Productions.

But his leading ambition is a Grammy award.

"The journey to the Grammys is very tough, I know. But when a little boy come to me and said, "˜ I want to grow up to be a man like you", I realized that I was ready for my dream."

Bui says he wants to release albums that carry both Eastern and Western cultural elements that appeal to people in Vietnam and all over the world.

He says his first album is like a summary of his life.

"It's all about what I feel. There is the happiness and sadness of living in a foreign country, of being the only one with yellow skin at my school, of first setting foot on my native soil.

 "I want to make the audiences feel close with a singer named Thanh Bui by telling his own life story with songs. I wanna create a connection to local youngsters."

Bui says that besides releasing his album, he wants to collaborate with local singers and composers on projects in the Vietnamese music industry.

But after a recent trip to Los Angeles, Bui has decided he wants to move to the US.

"That is the place where I could have more opportunities to approach the international level. I believe with the strong support of my compatriots, my Grammy dream will come true and I could make them proud of me."

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