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Play featuring Cai Luong artists' life, career to make its debut in May

Play featuring Cai Luong artists' life, career to make its debut in May

A cai luong play adapted by Nguyen Phuong from the work titled “Eclipse” by scriptwriter Le Duy Hanh will premiere at Cong Nhan theater in HCMC’s district 1 on May 4.

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Home » News » Musician

Musician of Traditional Music – Van Vi

Posted at: SATurday - 28/03/2015 22:30 - Viewed: 967
Musician of Traditional Music – Van Vi

Musician of Traditional Music – Van Vi

Cai luong is known as the traditional arts of singing and performing. The harmonious combination between the music band and the singers gives extremely good performance, and in some cases, the music band guides the singers to move along with the music and sing. Therefore, the singers seldom sing well without the accompanying music. Music not only gives the singers inspiration to feel like singing but also attracts the audience to listen and enjoy the performance.
It is clear that the musicians play an important role in any performances but they do not get much recognition, because often they work behind the stage or they sit in the orchestra pit, which hides them from the audience’s view. Likewise, the audience would see the pictures of the actors and actresses on the posters of the programs advertising a drama or music show, but they do not see those of musicians.

Traditional-music musician Van Vi was a well-known guitarist to many producers and millions of audience who knew him and loved his flowery and harmonious music.

Van Vi’s real name was Dinh Van Dam, and he was born in 1929 in Binh Dang, which is now Binh Hung, Can Duoc district, Long An province. When he was 3 years old, he got smallpox and became blind. Then he was renamed Van Vi after the name of a star by his herbalist doctor. (In Chinese, his name Vi means a string instrument).

It was purely a coincidence or fate that after being renamed to Van Vi, he liked to learn how to play the string instrument. At the tender age of 7, he was able to play the Vietnamese two-chord fiddle. When his family moved to Thuan Dong, he was taught to play the guitar by musician Bay Thua and music teacher Tu Lai, and then he was taught by teachers Tu Thin and Tu A in Thu Thiem. The legendary actress Ut Bach Lan recalled that when she was a little girl, she and Van Vi were very close friends because their mothers were like sisters, and they were both very poor. Van Vi was older than Ut Bach Lan, and he could play music at the time, so he taught her how to sing and they both performed at the markets and bus stations to earn money to help their poor mothers.

Because of their wonderful performance on the streets, they caught the attention of some actors who helped them take the first steps to the arts of Cai luong. Mrs. Nam Can Tho and the famous singer Thanh Cong introduced the little Ut to sing at the Phap A radio station and gave her a stage name of Ut Bach Lan. Also, two musicians Bay Ham and Hai Bieu introduced Van Vi to play music at Phap A radio station. In addition, he was invited to play the guitar at some entertainment clubs such as Lac Canh in Cau Ong Lanh, Le Lieu in Thi Nghe market, and Hoa Mi in Dai The Gioi. All the while, Van Vi continued to look for new ways to improve and perfect his skills from the well-known musicians Ba Xay, Muoi Ut, and Chin Thanh. Van Vi at first worked for Minh Tinh troupe, then he was invited to be the leading musician for the band in Kim Chung troupe. When Van Vi played slowly, his music was deep and smooth, the tune seemed to go directly into the hearts of the listeners. When he played quickly, his music was as fast and powerful as the raging wind and pouring rain. However differently he played, his melody was always accurate and clear, especially when his fingers were at a stretch on the strings, he created sounds like the tune of the Vietnamese two-chord fiddle or tune of the violin in the long pitch. When playing together in a band, musicians often played creatively and they applied many different variations to a piece of music. The very skillful singers would have pleasure to sing along with the music of the masters, but the less skillful ones listening to Van Vi playing his tricky ways would get lost in the mixed sounds, as this was the case of the famous actor Hung Cuong who sang out of tune.

Musician Van Vi taught music to many actors/actresses and helped make them become famous. They included Ut Bach Lan, Thanh Huong, Duc Loi, Vu Linh, Tuan Thanh, Binh Trang, Minh Trung, Minh Long, Tai Luong, Tan An, Hoai Thanh, Huu Tai, Thu Hue… Some of his students became musicians themselves such as Van Ben, Van Hai, Minh Thao, and Huynh Khai. Van Vi had three children, Van An, Van Hau and Van Tai, all became famous musicians. Musician Huynh Khai, one of Van Vi’s students, has a Ph.D. degree in traditional music. Van Vi’s wife, Mrs. Ngoc Thach, is his most trusted and dedicated assistant. She helped run Van Vi’s music school and made it into a well-organized place with well-planned methodology to help students learn better. Mrs. Ngoc Thach was once teaching French in Hoc Mon Ba Diem school. One night she attended a music show to raise fund for the Nguyen Dinh Chieu school, a school for the blind. On this night, she felt in love with Van Vi’s guitar melody, and she insisted on marrying him despite her parents’ disapproval. Her happy life afterwards proved that she was not wrong. With the help of a good and faithful wife, Van Vi had a happy family with three good children who all followed their father’s footsteps. Some famous actors, actress or musicians, who were once Van Vi’s students, became music teachers themselves, and they also continued Van Vi’s path.

Van Vi had recorded many solo disks and harmonized with other musicians such as Sau Tung, Nam Co, Bay Ha, Hai Thom… He also recorded many “cai luong” plays and “tan co giao duyen” songs with such famous singers as Ut Bach Lan, Hung Cuong, Thanh Nga, Ngoc Giau, Le Thuy, Thanh Sang… The most special event was when Van Vi and Nam Co, another musician, helped the comedian Van Huong win the first prize in a vong co contest in 1966 and 1967. Many listeners loved Van Vi’s music in many traditional-music programs on Sai Gon and Military radio stations. Talented musician Van Vi and other guitarists such as Hoang Hue, Van Con, Hoang Thanh, Van Hai… made the guitar a must-have piece of instrument in any music bands. In some cases, only the guitar could bring enjoyment to singers and listeners.

Van Vi was a talented, friendly and easy-going musician with a very good memory. Nguyen Phuong and Yen Son were managing a recording studio called Capitol, and we worked with Van Vi and Nam Co in 1966–1967. Then the studio was on fire in the lunar New Year of 1968 and was closed down. Both Nguyen Phuong and Yen Son stopped working for other recording companies. Instead, I went to work for the television play unit and did not meet or worked with Van Vi since then.

In 1984, Nguyen Phuong attended the wedding of composer Van Giai’s nephew. When Nguyen Phuong said hello to Van Giai at the door, Van Vi heard Nguyen Phuong’s voice and asked: “Are you still here, Nguyen Phuong?” It was nearly 20 years that we hadn’t met, but Van Vi could still recognize his old friend’s voice! Van Vi passed away in 1985 at the age of 56. The Vietnamese archives still contain proofs of his talented and extraordinary style of playing music – a legendary musician indeed!

SG Nguyễn Phươg - ĐACTD

Translated by Onlyyou

 


Source: cailuongvietnam.com
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