This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Tet Offensive. The event has generated perhaps more publications in the English language – government reports, media accounts, academic studies, amateur histories, memoirs, etc. – than any other from the Vietnam War. A sucker for anniversaries of publications and releases of films and music, I wish to commemorate it by inviting non-Vietnamese to listen to a very well-known song among Vietnamese.
It is always tricky writing about “the best” or “the most XYZ” song. But this year marks the centenary of the Marian apparitions in Fátima, and more Vietnamese Americans travelled to Portugal than any previous year. It made me think of the song Lời Mẹ Nhắn Nhủ [Words of Our Lady], better known by its informal title Năm Xưa Trên Cây Sồi [Years Ago on an Oak Tree]. I’m not very keen on awards, especially awards of recent productions. But I’m more open for retrospective awards. Were there an award for the category “the most devotional Marian song or hymn written in Vietnamese in the twentieth century,” I’d vote for this song.
I was on campus today for my first meeting of the new school year. It was the first time back since late May, meaning that yesterday was the unofficial last day of my summer. Like last summer, I worked at home and it gave me more downtime and a chance to catch up with popular culture.
Continue reading “I know what you watched last summer #2: my dancing portfolio”
This song is most interesting because the original lyrics were written in Paris by the writer Minh Đức Hoài Trinh: in 1962 or thirteen years before the Fall of Saigon.
Ask Vietnamese to name Vietnamese female singers that they love, and you can expect to hear many names. Ask them to name a Vietnamese female songwriter, and just about everyone will be stumped by the question. For there has been little recorded popular music written by Vietnamese women. I have no explanation for the wide discrepancy. But such was the case, at least in South Vietnam and the postwar diaspora.