Ngo Hong Quang - an artist creating East-West dialogue through music

Artist Ngo Hong Quang, who has a profound love for traditional Vietnamese instruments, has filtered the essence of folk music and blended the elements into modern life to help traditional music become popular both in this country and abroad, creating a convincing East-West dialogue through music.

Artist Ngo Hong Quang
Artist Ngo Hong Quang

Ngo Hong Quang granted an interview to Nhan Dan (The People) Monthly reporter to share his achievements, aspirations and his upcoming project.

Q: Your album ‘Nam nhi’ (The Man) was launched in early 2018, receiving appreciation from national art lovers. Is this the first time ‘Quan ho’ (love duet) folk songs have been performed in the cappella style (singing without musical instruments) by a string quintet and a beatboxer?

A: I invited five artists of different nationalities, using Western musical instruments, including violin, viola, cello and double bass, to harmonise with my voice. These instruments are capable of expressing the florid style and ligature of folk signing in the northern region of the country. With the combination between traditional and modern materials, I wish to introduce the audiences to a new approach to familiar folk songs. For young people who have never enjoyed this art form before, the album ‘Nam nhi’ will be an interesting discovery.

Q: Could you talk about how you make Vietnamese folk arts attractive to international friends?

A: I aspired to bring the quintessence of national folk music to the world many years ago. I started my musical career when I was only 14 with a dan nhi (Vietnamese two-chord fiddle). However, it took me several years to learn to love it and then I continued to learn other national instruments, such as dan moi (lip lute), dan k’ny (a musical instrument of the ethnic minority people from the Central Highlands), dan bau (monochord), trong (drum) and chieng day (chord gong).

During my tours abroad, I realised that foreign audiences have a special interest in traditional Vietnamese art forms. I have tried to learn English, wishing to convey the good and unique features to our international friends. In addition to exchanging and talking with audiences from many countries about Vietnam’s ancient folk arts, I have collected knowledge of music thanks to English books. I also received two full scholarships from the Dutch Royal Academy of Arts, which helped me to improve my thinking in terms of creating contemporary music.

Q: Are you one of the few artists that have been granted an ‘artist visa’ by the Dutch Government?

A: It can be said that, national music has granted a global ‘artist visa’ to me, creating opportunities for me to live, work and study in the top music environment in Europe. With my own prism, I have blown the soul of modernism into the traditional arts.

Q: Could you talk more about your own prism?

A: When creating art works, I mixed the principles of national music and western arts, creating a unique difference in familiar folk songs, which has been appreciated in foreign countries. Through my works, audiences can see the parallel existence of the past and present. Therefore, I can use national music to ‘talk’ with the quintessence of all cultures.

Q: Could you share about the projects that you intend to prepare for 2018?

A: In June, I will release an album titled ‘Nhin lai’ (Looking back), including 12 compositions based on the poems of Phan Le Ha, a Vietnamese Professor teaching at the US’ Honolulu University. I will set poems to music, harmonise songs and sing with singer Ha Linh, with the accompaniment of traditional instruments and electronic music. The second one, which is contemporarily unnamed, will consist of compositions for traditional Vietnamese musical instruments.

The ‘Hanoi Duo’ project, in which plays Vietnamese traditional and new pieces and combines vocals with electronic music performed by international jazz musician Nguyen Le, will continue to be developed this year. It will feature the participation of more artists, such as beatboxer Trung Bao, percussion player Alex Tran and some traditional instrumentalists.

Thank you very much!

Ngo Hong Quang - an artist creating East-West dialogue through music ảnh 1

Album 'Nam Nhi' is the combination between Vietnamese traditional and western modern materials.