Contemporary Vietnamese music abundant but in disorder

Published: 05/07/2009 05:00



Jason Gibbs, an American independent researcher of Vietnamese music, talked about modern music of Vietnam.

American researcher Jason Gibbs.

Jason Gibbs, an American independent researcher, has worked with Vietnamese music for decades and has been to Vietnam several times to learn about Vietnam’s music genres. After a talk with a Vietnamese audience at the Goethe Institute in Hanoi on June 25, he talked with Tuoi Tre Cuoi Tuan about modern Vietnamese music.

Foreign researchers often study traditional Vietnamese music, how about you?

Jason Gibbs was born in 1960 and is now working in the field of music at the San Francisco Public Library, California. He has published research on Vietnamese music in magazines such as Van Hoa Nghe Thuat (Culture and Arts) and Xua va Nay (Past and Now).

Most music researchers do their research under the names of organisations. Because they are sponsored by these organisations, they have to choose topics that are suitable to the sponsors’ requirements.

As an independent researcher, I can choose other topics. I like Vietnam’s pre-war music very much. I also like Vietnamese modern music, which is abundant but in disorder.

Are you afraid that your research themes are the same as local researchers’ topics?

I think research of modern music in Vietnam is wanting. Everyone knows that this country has a young population so the young are highly influential in society. Vietnam is changing thanks to the young. But I read only disparagements of modern music in the local newspapers, meaning disparagements over the tastes of music of the young.

I think that passion is very important in doing a job well. I recently saw a show of students in Hai Phong. There was a rock song. They also danced hip-hop. Of course they aped foreigners but they performed passionately and I was moved. I think we should respect the young’s way. The more people participate in the music life, the better music is.

You mean we should not intervene in the youth’s choice?

Ngu Cung rock band at Rock Storm 2009.

It is the same in Vietnam as in the US. When a young person is ordered “You have to learn singing cheo”, they will resist and do conversely. The young are interested in what’s fashionable and singing cheo is not.

But if they reach a certain level of culture and music, I think their ears will open widely to receive different genres of music and then they will wish to learn about the music of their nation. It is difficult for teens to study traditional music but those of over 20 years old, who have basic understanding of music, I think they will return to traditional music. So if we have to do something, I think we should help the youth have more knowledge and understanding about music.

Do you plan to do that?

I indulge myself in music and love to listen to different music genres in the world. I work in San Francisco so I have opportunities to work with the community of Vietnamese there. I came to Vietnam for travel but now I’m the husband of a Vietnamese woman (smile).

The next topic that I wish to study is the role of music in Vietnamese society today. I want to know about the spiritual lives of workers who move from rural to urban areas to work in industrial zones. I want to know their taste and needs in music.


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