Letter for the friend
Research on the Art of "Cải Lương"
Of the group of theatre ARCHIPEL INDIGO
from the 6 to January 20, 2002
Dear Quang, I have just returned to
If there is not this place, the theatre "Cải Lương" will have him also disappeared (just like old songs) because the phenomenon of passion for the modern music, the foreign music, entered manners of all. Still more worrying, "Cải Lương" is even absorbed by the new current music.
The group of theatre comprises three people : Emmanuelle, Geraldine (actress of theatre), Dominique Hardy (narrator) and me, the group benefits French governmental subsidy, we are in
Arrived at Saigon about midday of the 06/01, under a pleasant temperature, I like forgot the cold of
Awkwardly seeking the address, the telephone number, here is Dominique who returns, she said to me that she has just met Minh Ngọc in the center of exchange cultural French-Vietnamese. I already could hear the voice of Minh Ngọc actress of theatre from
During two weeks, I invited them to the theatre of the arts centre France-Vietnam (IDCAF), to the small theatre 5B Võ Văn Tầng, in the movie theater Hưng Đạo.
We also attended a ceremony of recollection in the artistic family. This day there, our group were at Củ Chi, at the house of the couple Quốc Hùng-Thoại Miêu (director of theatre THT) for the anniversary of died of the paternal father, and benefitting from this day, the population of the village could appreciate one night of music of the artists of the South, and certain acts drawn from the theatre "Cải Lương" that they could follow through video tapes and television, and also see in the flesh the young actresses and actors of the theatre Trần Hữu Trang…And it became an annual practice, since the artists boys played football like exchanges fraternal with the population of the village one midday, until the evening, where a dinner of festival was offered with 200 to 300 guests, all artists.
When the last sunbeams disappeared, the musical program starts. The population of the village and the villages at side came to assist to it, upright filling the stadium, in silence tasting the exceptional spectacles that the couple Quốc Hùng agreed to reserve to them. This act of the couple made it possible the populations to safeguard the musical and artistic tradition.The theatre "Cải Lương" of the South lived always near the agricultural activities and touched the heart of the population. The artists Vũ Linh, Thoại Miêu, Thoại Mỹ, Tấn Giao, Tấn Beo…(and others which I do not have the names in memory…) are all come. Do some come from Long An, Cần Thơ or other remote places, they did not forget this day of national tradition to be present and take part.
Was this night one night of songs "Vọng Cổ" very particular that I will never forget. Because during all the duration of the spectacle, the song "Vọng Cổ" was mixed and carried out by the artists with other types of songs, and when the song was, the salvos of applause did not fail to take place to show how much it was appreciated.
Can Quang you imagine hours during, how "Vọng Cổ" was the principal song of this night ? It was exceptional, one does not weary oneself any to listen and listen again. Does each artist have his own manner, some sang with a text spoken at the beginning, some sang with a small text, some sang mixed with the modern music (called "Tân Cổ Giao Duyên") thus, if there does exist that only one rhythmic song of the "Vọng Cổ", it remains very vivifying, to express a sad state, one sings it with "Lý con sáo", for a merry state, one sings it with "Thiên Bất Túc", or with a heroic rhythm etc. One does not weary oneself any to appreciate.
We also we could contribute our share by popular songs with an ‘Occidental’ woman artist which sings in Vietnamese, me also I could invite everyone to sing with me the pieces "Cỏ Lá","Trống Quân". I ever was as moved as during this evening there, because I could sing and invite the Vietnameses remained with the country (town of
Then we could attend a meeting of recording of "Cải Lương" at the television Vietnamese. And it was not the last, we went to the pagoda of the Artists to see our sister Phùng Há, who this year was 92 years old (Considering her age, we will have to call her Madam but the artists are and remain ‘young’ then I always called ‘our sister’ to indicate her). We are invited to lunch with her at the pagoda, and with the ex director Xuân (of the ex company "Hương mùa Thu"), and currently person in charge for the pagoda. And with my friends, we went near the furnace bridge then lit incenses for the artists, currently present at the pagoda : Master Năm Châu, the artists Ba Vân, Thanh Nga, Hùng Cường, Hữu Phước, and others…And to visit the tombs of these brilliant artists who rest there in peace with the pagoda of the Artists (I will write an article after having an interview with our sister Phùng Há).
During two weeks I ran near the young actors and actresses of the theatre Trần Hữu Trang, followed the steps of Minh Ngọc to the
Nearly 30 years far from
Dominique and Manu unceasingly asked me, the artists can occur without need for sound system ? I always answered them, that it is necessary to adapt where one is, whom each place has his own manner of working. In France, each play played on scene, is appreciated for its quality of authenticity, its artistic value, the capacities of the actors, especially who should be played the part in a natural way, i.e. whom the voice does not have need to be amplified. Each artist who wants to arrive at this level, it is necessary that he learns, that he involves himself very hard, and not easily to be able to go up on scene as one goes… to the market.
After having to attend the plays, the "Cải Lương", the French friends were very moved, because they never thought of having such an alive program of work, and also to have to meet people determined to keep together the heart of "Cải Lương" without disguising it.
But what makes me reflect, it is as the common desire of people who have a determination for old arts in general, and "Cải Lương" in particular, it is how to safeguard, popularize "Cải Lương" to preserve its heart and to grant a ground to it where it can live, without being absorbed and to disappear??… it is a question quite difficult Quang.
After 1975, the Vietnameses spread themselves everywhere in the world, it is a misfortune for the country, but a chance for art. It is while being far from the country, that one can see the best and the bad things of the host country on the level of the theatre. I thus could continue to spread the traditional music here, thus my vision learned to me well on certain things from the crenel which makes me live. I look at myself all the time behind, for still being able to see itself, if not, we will have changed without we seeing some, then according to this practice, it does not have there any more but our share of the work who seems to us right, it will be of a disturbing sadness.
I want very that our friends artists in the country can have favorable conditions to play abroad, exchange, to have relations with other artists apart from the country, thus they will be able to acquire new experiments and also to have the advisability of evaluating their capacity and their level. If it is thus, the spirit to follow the foreign modes will ‘decrease’, because it is while going abroad, that one can see that it is with the country which is the most beautiful place and which one likes more. Especially that one can see that old arts are always appreciated and respected. Because the old and traditional music is the ‘fine flower’, it is the love for the people, it deserves to be kept and to spread them, so that the future generations can still appreciate it.
If we can retransmit to our children and our grandchildren the whole of the traditional musics resulting from the people, they could be proud of what we call the culture of the country since 4 or 5000 years of excellence.
I do not understand why today in
I will tell you the continuation…
In this voyage, without the meetings with Kim Cúc, a friend journalist with the review ‘Youth’, and Minh Ngọc, director and also professor of song to the theatre Trần Hữu Trang, I could never complete all hoped work.
During two working weeks at 300 kmph to be able to carry out all the things envisaged from for my two girlfriends Dominique and Manu, and also for myself, and my family. This is of extreme importance for me, Quang. Since 1995, I endeavoured to turn over to
Looking at my so thin and so weak mother in a body of ‘skin and bone’, I felt a wave of pain in my heart. Each night, I ask my sister-in-law to be able to sleep with my mother. When one is small girl, the arm of its mom is always soft to be used as pillow, maintaining it is the reverse, my mother lie down in my arm, sleeping quietly like a baby. Because of her handicap to the body, she cannot be turned over when she feels to tire, a small painful cry is enough to awake me, knowing that she wants to change position to sleep. I speak to her gently with small voice as what I understood that she has pains with the body because of her apparent bones, and I carry her with softness, raising her like a baby, because I am afraid which she badly has by changing her position. After the change, she fell asleep again easily in my arms. I then close my eyes to continue to sleep, because tomorrow I must still run to do the work of coordinator, of translator for the companies of theatre at
Each year, as I have a goal to turn over to Saigon, I had to battle firm to find a certain work, at the same time useful for the culture, social of the country, while having a voyage financed by the organizers from here, thus saving the money of the family, the wages of a professor of music is not well paid. Because on each return to , it was very expensive, Quang. However little thinks of it. The Vietnameses of overseas, accustomed to the standard of living from here, working during all the year, the arriving summer it is necessary to think of the holidays, then they prepared the money for the voyage. The costs of living to the country are less than in , then they can spend without counting being able all to buy that of which they cannot pay here.
The voyage of research on "Cải Lương" was profitable thanks to the two girlfriends who helped me cordially. I am very grateful towards Kim Cúc and Minh Ngọc, because without Kim Cúc to comfort me the moral one, without Minh Ngọc to be concerned with ego, perhaps I would never have had such a program.
And also in this voyage, I was very happy because Thảo, second dauhgter of my older brother, asked for to her aunt Oanh a "đàn tranh" to involve herself. Thảo is registered in an artistic group of the district, being occupied of preparing a cultural and artistic program of her district Tân Thới Hiệp. At did the request of my niece Thảo, I want to help her to open a class of "đàn tranh" that Thư (older sister of Thảo) will teach. Because Thư is pupil of "đàn tranh", at a very good level, she plays well the music and will be able to teach to the beginners.
On the basis of a simple decision, wanting to create a class of "đàn tranh", she explained to her chief of district, and she learned that the House of the children of district 12 will be finally ready the next year. He wants that Thảo organizes her class of traditional music at this place. I was very happy because it acts of an occasion for my niece to complete a cultural work of a good utility for the little children and also for herself. I thus left to return visit to friends of which I am certain that they will be able to help Thảo at the same time to organize and to have the authority necessary. I discussed with the friend Hoàng Cơ Thụy, a very good musician of the old traditional musical instruments so that he is the Master of my niece in her training, and also the person in charge for the program of the matters to be taught, except for the "đàn tranh" which will be taught by Thư and Nga (of Phượng Ca Saigon).
I am very happy, thus Phượng Ca (school of traditional music Vietnamese in ) will have a relay in the country. And also to have found work for the friends, and my nieces. Currently the class of "đàn tranh" will take place at the house, while waiting for the opening of the courses the next year, then at this time there a day ago of demonstration of the "đàn tranh" in front of the public and the festival of the opening of the school of music…
Quang you know, sat in front of the tomb of my parents, I then said to be glad to find them, although it is necessary to provide a work harassing for the spirit, but it was an occasion to come, if not I would not know when I can turn over to see them.
To tell the truth, I am very afraid of the phantoms, to enter the cemeteries, however during time that I am in
My sister-in-law, getting along with my alive mother, but since she disappeared, dream of her the night. But each time, she was made push back by the mother-in-law, to return apart from the house, to be made continue in the street running to lose breath… (sept month passed since the death of my mother) My sister-in-law had to get busy each day to call my mother for the meals as when she is still alive for not to have this kind of nightmare more.
I tightened very a long time the hand of Đức in my hands and I requested my mother if its heart is still there to forgive me, and to help myself to occupy of my nieces who need her protection in this moment. Before, my sister-in-law was not very prompt to occupy herself of her mother-in-law, now she does not hesitate to occupy herself of the tomb (because my parents as people of the family all are buried in the family garden). I saw her rising early to go to sprinkle the flowers, each evening to clear the garden so that it is clean, I am certain that my parents already forgave the obstinate character of the single daughter-in-law. I hope that the regrets of my sister-in-law will have positive effects on her children later.
Hoping to find you Quang and your family in May, now, I am reflecting how to help Dominique to meet the chief of Air Vietnam here to ask free tickets, or all at least not too expensive for the group of theatre, because it is possible, that this group will go to Vietnam to play at the cultural festival of Huế…