As a kid I always thought that Vietnamese music was either old school Cải Lương (Vietnamese opera/folk music) or corny 1990s ballads. A couple of years ago I heard this radio story called “Saigon’s Wartime Beat” from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). I KNEW Vietnam had to have rocked at some point, with all the trauma its people experienced, but I had never heard the resulting music before. You should understand that for Vietnamese parents and grandparents, that period in time was pretty intense and not everyone had the luxury of music or the desire now to relive those memories. The radio story highlighted a compilation called Saigon Rock & Soul: Vietnamese Classic Tracks 1968-1974, released on a label called Sublime Frequencies. You can listen to the album on YouTube here.
I bought the records immediately and knew I had to finish and release the music I had been making after taking a break from Ming & Ping. I wrote Fish Sauce about growing up an immigrant in the US. I wrote a bunch of other songs about the pressure and confusion of being raised Asian in a predominantly white, Christian society. I was inspired to leave my songs a little bit dirty and unpolished and express my raw emotions as honestly as possible. I hope that my debut EP is received as honest and raw and I really hope it inspires others to delve into their cultural history too, before it’s too late.
Since then I have become online friends with the story’s producer Sheila Pham. Working from Australia, she’s continued to produce other thoughtful content that dives into cultural issues that immigrants and refugees also face here in the US, including this great piece about returning to Vietnam at 30 years old and learning much more about her family.
There are a couple of publications I follow that give Vietnamese immigrants a platform to tell similar stories. Project Yellow Dress is a beautiful collection of very interesting perspectives from people who are in various levels of assimilation into the culture of their new countries – and various stages of discovering their history.
Anyway, a lot of this is explored in my music, whether it’s obvious or not on the surface level. I’m really thankful to have an outlet for these ideas and also very grateful to have access to these other stories from around the web.
Have a story you want to tell? Leave a comment!