Tales from the Far East

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The quartet Camkytiwa, Huong Thanh (1), Etsuko Chida (2), E'Joung Ju (3), Yan Li (4). 

Camkytiwa will hold its first concert in Vietnam on May 14. The all-female Asian Quartet will bring traditional fusion to the stage of the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music.

Renowned Vietnamese-French jazz vocalist, Huong Thanh, will lead three traditional Asian instrumentalists"”Chinese Ehru-player, Yan Li, Japanese Koto-player, Etsuko Chida and Korean Geomungo-player E'Joung Ju - in an evening of traditional music.

The concert has been a lifetime in the making for Thanh who was born in Saigon, in 1971, to a well-known family of cai luong (Southern Vietnam's modern folk opera) singers.

Her family migrated to France when she was just six years old.

Soon after they settled in Paris, Thanh began training in traditional Vietnamese opera and began performing at music festivals throughout Europe at an early age.

In 1995, she began a groundbreaking collaboration with guitarist Nguyen Le. The pair combined traditional Vietnamese folk songs with melodious jazz.

For a long time, Thanh tried her best to bring the unfamiliar sounds of traditional Vietnamese songs to European ears, with moderate success.

In 2001, the Guardian (UK) hailed her effort to "[import] her remarkable sound into a mix of contemporary global and indigenous contexts."

For Thanh, it was all about melding traditional Vietnamese vocals with familiar instrumental sounds.

Now, she is finally getting the chance to bring her music home, with an added twist.

Last year, she coupled with the other three members of Camkytiwa - named after the four Confucian intellectual ideals that include music, chess, poetry and painting.

Their set will include classic Vietnamese folk songs from all over Vietnam.

With backing from the Chinese, Japanese and Korean instruments, Thanh will sing Ly qua cau (Crossing the bridge) and Hoa thom buom luon (Fragrant flowers, flirty butterflies).

During the one-night show, Thanh will also sing songs in Japanese, Korean and Chinese.

Japanese artist Etsuko Chida, told local reporters that she has studied the Koto (a traditional Japanese string instrument) and singing since she was five.

"I have been living and performing in France and other European countries for the last ten years," she told Thanh Nien Weekly. "This is my first time in Vietnam. It is my great pleasure to explore a culture which has been carved into my mind through audio recordings and my friendship with Thanh."

Chida said that backing Vietnamese songs with a Koto is no easy task, but once she was able to recognize a common Oriental thread, things became relatively easy.

Jan Li (the Chinese Ehru player) said she found it easy to leap between the two traditional sounds and has heard that Vietnam has its own version of the instrument"”called a dan nhi (a two-string musical instrument).

"Camkytiwa is a unique band in Europe, and also in the world. The female collective tries to convey a message of peace between nations," Li said.

Korean artist E'Joung Ju said she'd visited Vietnam in 1998 and is looking forward to making a whole new set of memories.

"We have overcome all our cultural barriers to share a common feeling and understanding," she said.

The concert will begin at 8:00 p.m. on May 14.

Tickets for the show are available for VND300,000-VND800,000 and VND1,000,000 at the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music, on 112 Nguyen Du Street, District 1.

For booking call Minh Duc, 0903 973 077 or email nguyenminh77@gmail.com.

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