Bonjour Vietnam

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An overseas Vietnamese singer knows that sometimes the words of a song can express your feelings perfectly.

"Someday, I will go there, someday to say hello to your soul. Someday, I will go there, to say hello to you, Vietnam."

These words from Pham Quynh Anh's hit song Bonjour Vietnam (Hello Vietnam) will come true later this month when she arrives in her home country for the first time on November 10.

She will attend a party held by the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (Eurocham) on the evening of November 14 at the Sofitel Plaza Saigon.

Then the 21-year-old Belgian-based singer will visit Hanoi and Ha Long Bay before leaving on November 18.

Anh is very excited to be finally setting foot in Vietnam.

"I have always felt a sense of incompleteness because I haven't visited my home country. This trip will make me whole," Anh said in a clip replying to Thanh Nien's interview questions.

"I don't want to visit Vietnam as a tourist or think of my stay there as a summer vacation. I need time to prepare for the trip and I want to learn a great deal about the place," she said.

"Going there will be a very emotional time for me."

Bonjour Vietnam, written by French heart throb, singer and songwriter Marc Lavoine in 2005, was first performed by Anh, when she was 19.

The song is about an overseas Vietnamese's deep emotions for her home country.

When a version of the song was accidentally posted on the Internet in early 2006 it spread quickly and became a smash hit among Vietnamese, particularly overseas Vietnamese, even before the song was officially launched.

It caused quite a stir in chat rooms and forums in the Vietnamese community around the world because of the nostalgic feeling it evoked.

"Bonjour Vietnam" vaulted Anh into stardom as it featured in performances around the world, including those put on by the overseas Vietnamese music and media company Thuy Nga Productions.

Anh's name was mentioned on nearly 800 websites and she has received invitations to perform in the UK, US and Asian countries.

"When I first saw Anh, I saw in her a gentle, innocent Oriental beauty and gleams of hope. She reminded me of Vietnam's sparkling culture and evoked in me tragic images from its warring years and all the loss and suffering the Vietnamese have endured," Lavoine said.

"All of these inspired me to write Bonjour Vietnam, which took me only three or four days to finish," he added.

Anh released a single with the English version "Hello Vietnam" earlier this year.

"Whenever I'm on the stage, I feel very happy and forget all anxiety I may have. That's the feeling I seek every time I perform," she said.

"Music is what I am destined for," she added, saying that as a child she always wished to be a singer.

The 21-year-old said she wanted to go to all corners of the world to perform.

She is also proud of her Vietnamese origins.

"I know a little bit about Vietnam. My parents taught me to follow Vietnamese traditions and we mostly cook Vietnamese food at home," she said, adding she and her family sang Vietnamese folk songs during the Lunar New Year.

Her love for Vietnam grew out of listening to her grandmother's stories when she was a child.

A foot in two countries

"But I also live and think like a Belgian. For example, I have a weakness for chocolate and I like to drink beer with my friends. My personality is the combination of these two cultures," she added.

Anh was born in 1987 in Belgium and learned music at a young age.

She and her family joined the Hope singing group which performed folk songs at charity shows.

It was her father that signed her up for the Pour la gloire (For glory) singing contest put on by Belgium's RTBF Television in 2000 in which she won the top prize for teenagers.

She met her manager there who introduced her to a producer and Lavoine, which led to a contract with Rapas Center, a branch of Universal in France in 2002, and many offers from composers.

She performed J'espere (I Hope) with Lavoine, which featured on his latest album L'heure d'ete (Hour of Summer) in early 2005.

Anh was the only female to perform on that album.

She and Lavoine toured together through Belgium, France, Switzerland and the US later that year.

The singer who is looking to release her album said, "Bonjour Vietnam is my first recorded song and holds a special place in my heart. It was written especially for me and is about my feelings and the home country I am yet to visit."

Reported by Dang Ngoc Khoa

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