Table of Contents
Introduction and Description of Project
The role of music in human life is undeniable – everybody’s lives have been touched by music to varying degrees. Throughout our lives, we were brought up alongside music – we listened to lullabies as infants, then explored different sounds in every nook and cranny. We associate certain times of our lives with the top trending songs of that era. Now, we live in an age of change and turbulence, and our music undoubtedly takes on these characteristics. But is this particular to our times, to any area or any demographic or has it always been the same throughout history?
This project seeks to take a deep investigation into Vietnamese “Golden Music”, songs that were written during 1954-1975 in Southern Vietnam. This was an era of turmoil and uncertainty, and many turned to music as their outlet, using it as a testament to their loss, despair, anxiety, and hope. By looking into not only the music written during this time, but also the making of, or “behind-the-scenes” of it as well the subtle personal nuances, we may be able to understand the lives of artists during this special time of Vietnamese history and make sense of the state of the country, the state of humanity embedded in every note, every lyric. “Nhạc vàng”, and the people who wrote it, are using history to not only tell but immortalize their life stories. In this paper, the archival sources used are the songs themselves. This is a special form of primary sources, as it is “non-living”: its contents are unchanging, yet it carries the voices of those who lived through those periods and tell their own stories, filled with nuances one would find in oral sources – emotions, faith, dialects, predispositions, etc. Thus, its analysis is more abstract, more opinion-based and open to interpretation. The findings below are more often my own speculation and assessment, but some factual and conclusive evidence is sufficiently provided.
Being able to hear the music that was steeped in history and the culture and its surroundings at the time is connected with a bygone period. Although is impossible to truthfully recreate, the essence of an entire era can be re-experienced through music. Beyond simply recreating the time and place, it significantly influences the people of that time, keeping these figures alive in the minds of their next generation. This is why the loss of the sounds of any time period would be a great loss to humanity and something we should be preventing. The “Golden music” era immortalized the moments that created it for all future Vietnamese people to hear and reflect on, retained the memory of the people and the culture of the past, and will continue to serve as a way for modern Vietnamese to connect with their older generation and their country’s past.
“Vietnamese music from 1954-1975” is not a well-researched topic, but some thinkers on this topic have made important contributions. They tend to take the cultural approach, focusing on what effects this music has on humans at the time, and after its time. Their main arguments focus on the people’s perception of music, as a means of communication within themselves and with the people around them. They are all written in a retrospective position, as modern-day researchers reaching out to the older generations to ask them about their experiences with the music that was popular during their time.
In 2007, Hy V. Luong authored a paper named “The Restructuring of Vietnamese Nationalism, 1954-2006.”, examining the fundamental framework of Vietnamese identity since 1954, which directly affects the songwriting processes of musicians at the time. He does not focus on music, but rather examines the role of propaganda and education in shaping the national identity of Vietnamese people. However, these societal shifts are central to the ideologies of songwriters at the time, and it may help show some social and political factors that influence the Southern music industry before 1975.
Later in 2019, Tina Agnelli Huynh wrote an article on “The Musical Childhoods of Vietnamese and Vietnamese American Elders Raised in Vietnam between 1931–1975”, which directly concerns the topic of golden music. The article examines the songs that children sing from 1931 through 1975, which includes “nhạc vàng” among other music genres. It does not discuss in-depth the impact of golden music as a historical tool, but it focuses on the developmental role of music during adolescence, which can be useful to examine the role of music affecting people’s beliefs and philosophies at the time, but it does not go in-depth with these points. In my project, I will attempt to use the ideas established in this work to further elaborate on my own points about music reflecting contemporary people’s ideologies and vice versa.
Finally, an important article that perceives golden music as a tool to illustrate the past is Kathy Nguyen’s “Echoic survivals: Re-documenting pre-1975 Vietnamese music as historical soundtracks of remembering”, written in 2020. This article describes itself as “a diasporic re-reading of the lyrics and re-listening of selective pre-1975 Vietnamese music” to investigate “nhạc vàng” as important sources that tell the stories and experiences of Vietnamese people that have otherwise been discarded or gone undocumented – once again, putting their narratives into history. An important contribution that this article brings is its multi-perspective outlook with its inclusion of veterans, showing the opinions of both participants and non-participants of the war. For people who only know of soldiers on the war front, the music reminds them of the souls who are fighting for their safety and is deserving of great respect. For the heroes who were on the frontlines, “golden music” helped them look back at a big part of their past, to remember the hardships and the losses suffered and most importantly, to keep the memory and recognize the sacrifices of their brothers-in-arms.
As for my project, I wanted to do a paper with a broader scope on the topic, doing foundational work on this topic so that others could base it on to research further into everything that this paper mentions in greater detail. This is because I believe the topic of “nhạc vàng” is relatively under-researched, and hypothesized that it is because there has been no large project that encompasses the whole era, even if it is limited and can only cover a little bit of everything.
Chapter 0: Definition
What does “Golden Music” mean?
Before analysing Golden music (“nhạc vàng”), we must first decide on a definition of the term that will be used throughout this paper. The word “vàng” in Vietnamese has two possible translations: “gold”, or “yellow”. There have been many debates on the true meaning of “vàng” in “nhạc vàng”, whether it is the colour that symbolizes sappy love stories, or that of treasured values, or simply the colour of the RVN flag, where people who make and listen to these songs lived at the time. For this paper, “Golden music”, or “yellow music” refers to the type of music that was popular in Southern Vietnam from 1954 to 1975. According to different people, however, the connotations behind the name may vary from different artists.
In an article by Tina Agnelli Huynh, it is suggested that the term “golden (yellow) music” was coined afterwards to distinguish between “red music” (songs about the Communist Revolution in the North). Meanwhile, according to many others, the term had already existed before 1975. The foreword of the record “Nhã Ca 5” (Pleasant Songs 5) narrated by Huong Lan released in 1972 mentions the term “golden music”, with the connotation of being “precious like gold”.
It is also worth noting that “Golden music” was banned for a short period of time after 1975 on the grounds of having “reactionary or inappropriate themes”. There was a lot of backlash in response to the restrictions and condemnation of this music, and many fans consider it a political battle in order to protect their rights to listen to the music they love. An interview with Nguyễn Văn Lộc (nicknamed “Lộc Vàng” – Lộc Yellow) revealed that he tried time and time again to open a café space for fans to listen and sing to their favourite songs, to the point of accepting billions of Vietnam dong in losses and selling his house just to keep this centre of musical culture alive in the middle of Ha Noi. This ban has now been lifted, and these songs are allowed back into mainstream Vietnamese culture, but a certain feeling of being frowned upon or open to scrutiny perhaps still lingers among many fans, which may explain it being highly treasured and acquiring “cult status” according to some individuals.
Chapter 1: “Echoes of the past” – how golden music reflects the state of Souther Vietnam in 1954-1975
1. The narratives that golden music creates is personal and emotional.
Golden music reflects life in 1954-1975 Vietnam through its personal and emotional narratives. Music is a descriptive and emotive language, and this is especially true for golden music. These songs mainly touch upon subjects such as sceneries, love stories, life lessons, turbulent emotions in times of war, adapted from real stories and lives those composers have experienced or witnessed first-hand. They express these using language and prose iconic to the time period and give a glimpse into the culture of the world they lived in. Furthermore, from inspiration to composition and production, each step is a story within itself, embedding the creators’ personality and journey. Thus, the outcome is an intimate and sentimental retelling of events from the creators’ lives – much like that of an oral history source.
In addition, golden music can convey past events without using words. Music has different genres, and each can be used to demonstrate different aspects of life – traditional music tells stories in a theatrical way, boleros tell stories of love and loss, marches tell stories of heroic soldiers or the people’s solidarity. The difference in each instrument or singer’s timbre (quality of sound) may also cover different ranges of emotions: a violin may convey feelings of yearning, an accordion may convey festivity or romance, a high male voice may show warmth or gentleness, a low female voice may show sadness or power.
One of the most popular topics in golden music is spring. Tet (lunar new year) in Vietnamese culture is the most important celebration, and songs about this holiday highlight the peacefulness and prosperity of Saigon during these times. Some fan-favourite songs about spring are: “Hạnh phúc đầu xuân” (Happiness in early spring), “Cánh thiệp đầu xuân (Early spring postcard), “Xuân đã về” (Spring is here) by Minh Kỳ and Lê Dinh, features in the record “Shotguns Spring”, featuring famous voices such as Thanh Thúy and Thái Thanh, and arranged by Ngọc Chánh. These songs have simple melodies, using only notes from the selected key and rarely ever using outside notes, which gives them an “amicable” and “peaceful” quality. The instrumentation is often simple light drums, guitar, strings and horns with bright tones that highlight the fun, light-hearted vocals. They are written in a verse-chorus structure, with 16 bars for each segment, making them feel steady, secure and predictable. Another unique characteristic of this music is the writers’ way of using words. Along with simple vocabulary, they sometimes embellish their lyrics using Sino-Vietnamese (Hán-Việt) vocabulary and poetic expressions, reminiscent of the language found in RVN textbooks, newspapers and academic writings.
Apart from musical characteristics, these songs are loved because of the memories associated. An interviewee said that during these times, these songs would often be played in every shop, street, and household that had a music recorder. During family meetups, people would sing these songs to each other in their new year wishes, as the melodies are catchy to the ear and easy to sing along with. It is impossible for them to think of spring without thinking of these songs. When one listens to this music, it brings them back to a simpler time, a simpler world that they spent their youth in.
2. Golden music tells past events from many different perspectives.
Golden music has the ability to tell events from many different perspectives. This is because music is open to interpretation and talented artists can use the same lyrics to have varying contexts and meaning when applied differently. Many singers and accompanists interpret the lyrics and music in different ways: some producers play the music faster, which uplifts the mood; some singers have naturally deeper voices which makes the song sound melancholy. In some cases, there may be wording that was “lost in translation”, making performers sing something composers did not intend.
During this time period, individuals in different situations produced different types of songs. Composers who joined the army might write songs about the sceneries they witness during their time marching through the land, while their loved ones at home might write songs about how much they miss them and long for their return. A reunion might sound happy when those who were separated finally meet again; but it might sound melancholic when they return with permanent injuries or perish in battle. These changes can be as grand or as subtle as simply a quirk in the vocalist or a slight pitch difference in one of the accompaniments. Each song can show a multitude of facets to itself and both in the technical and emotional departments.
One way to examine this difference in artistic interpretations and therefore difference in meaning and feeling is to look at different recordings of the same song, performed by different artists at different times. For this example, I will examine three versions of “Chiều Mưa Biên Giới” (A rainy afternoon in the borderlines), written by Nguyễn Văn Đông. The song was written while he was a lieutenant in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. In the original manuscript, below the title was a line that reads: “Dedicated to the soldiers who endures the sun and dew, rushing into the dangers of the battlefield. In memory of Đồng Tháp Mười (Viet-Cambodia borders 1956). It describes a particularly rainy night when his troop was marching along the borderlines. However, the emotions portrayed in this scene is drastically different among the three following versions.
Trần Văn Trạch’s interpretation of this song in 1961 managed to popularize the track to not just Vietnam but also France and America. The accompaniment uses light electric guitar chords and woodwind ornamentations in the beginning, and then switches to a call-and-response dialogue between a simple guitar melody and a string ensemble, along with quiet, minimalistic jazz drumming throughout that tie everything together. The genre is classical romantic with some jazz influences. This perfectly supports and envelopes Van Trach’s warm and endearing vocals, which carries a subtle Southern accent. His use of vibrato and falsetto brings a wistful, yearning feeling, and the light yet sombre instrumentals capture the sadness of a gloomy, rainy night when a marching soldier looks over the distance, taking in the vast, desolate landscape, feeling the rain pelting on his skin as his mind is filled with thoughts of a piercing desire to see his hometown, family or lover again.
Hà Thanh’s interpretation of this song in 1970 is slightly slower than Tran Van Trach’s but otherwise similar in style. It uses the same light jazz drum lines and woodwind ornamentations. However, the chords were played with a horn section, which was used throughout the song. This version is much more jazz-influenced, with many complicated harmonies, modulations and usage of borrowed chords that create more tension and suspense, thus making the release feel more satisfying. This compliments Ha Thanh’s sweet and bright voice, producing a more light-hearted and jazzier interpretation. There is also a longer interlude, which uses a piano-sounding instrument and strings as ornamentation in call-and-response style. Her version paints a romantic, landscape in the borderlines with light rain, open fields, blue hills in the distance and a half-moon shining down on a line of marching soldiers walking along the path, where the melancholy feeling is present, but not as heavy-hearted. Instead, it is a warm, fleeting wave of longing to meet his lover again, a glimmer of hope for the day of reunion as the soldier continues to push forward.
Giao Linh’s interpretation of this song in 1989 is much grander. It has a significantly slower pace and uses a variety of instruments, almost to the scope of a full orchestra with contrabass playing the bassline, light drums as percussion, a string section and a horn section, as well as piano. The arrangement is also much more classical sounding, with little to no jazz influences. This greatly supports her contralto (low female voice) and gives the feeling of grandeur of an opera performance. Its interlude took up about ¼ of the song and features a leading melody played with an accordion, and then a string ensemble and piano with slow, simple accompaniment by drums, bell-sounding synthesizers and contrabass. Due to the grandiosity of the piece, the fullness of the orchestra and the simplicity of the chords compared to the other two versions, the scenery it paints is one of marvel and breath-taking glory typically associated with large orchestral symphonies, and, thanks to the brightness provided by the strings and woodwind ensembles, the sadness seems to be completely replaced by admiration and inspiration when the soldier witnesses such greatness on his way to his post, walking at a slow marching pace towards a brighter future.
3. Golden music tells the progression of changes in Vietnamese history.
Similar to history records, golden music tells the progression of Vietnamese history and its major events. Undeniably, major historical events are often the inspirations for people to write and sing more music. By looking at songs written in the years where important incidents happen, it may be possible to recognize the lyrics as reactions to certain fundamental changes in the people’s beliefs, or their reactions to such revolutionary occurrences. Besides the lyrics, the inclusion of sounds and tunes synonymous with that time such as the faint ringing of church bells, the chatter of the morning markets, the soft music played over the intercom every afternoon… evokes nostalgia within people, transporting them back to that period and helping them to recall the subtleties of their lives as well. Furthermore, there may be certain concepts in history that were only made available from these historical changes, so it may be significant to see new ideas come up in songs of later times. Without golden music and its intrinsic link to the people, it would be hard-pressed to have a realistic representation of Vietnamese history, if not for the animated illustrations of life told through the musicians’ perspectives.
After the events of Tet Mau Than 1968, a bloody battle that claimed tens of thousands of casualties, many artists used music as a way to process their grief, express the horrors they had witnessed. It also allows the musicians and others who hear it to mourn the losses and finding solace at the end of this disaster. As mentioned above, in Vietnamese culture, Tet (Lunar New Year) is the most important holiday of the year, which makes the aftermath of this battle even more tragic. Some notable songs about this event are:
- “Chuyện một chiếc cầu đã gãy” (Story of a broken bridge) – Trầm Tử Thiêng is a song about the fall of Truong Tien bridge because of the war. The bridge is an important line of transportation for the people of Hue and held many sentimental values to those whose memories were associated with it. The fall of the bridge is thought to also be the fall of the citizens’ normal and happy lives. The notation at the beginning of his manuscript says “Capturing a peaceful, idyllic past as words of condolences to the beloved land of Huế”
- “Hát trên những xác người” (Sing on dead bodies) – Trịnh Công Sơn is a song about the horrors he witnessed as the aftermath of the bloody battle. The emotional aspect of this is that he considered every single dead body once had a life of its own – they used to be soldiers, students, mothers, fathers; they used to be people with dreams and aspirations. He wrote about the mass burial sites that housed friends and brothers, a woman who went crazy after the loss of her son, a father who hugged his son’s lifeless corpse at the beach, a young woman soldier who died alone in the dead of night from a gunshot, dead bodies all over in the fields, roads, churches and pagodas, all to prove how immoral and devastating warfare is on human life.
- “Chuyện một đêm” (The story of a night) – Anh Bằng tells the story of a woman in a poor village running away from the bombs and fire to safety with her son during the battle. On the way the son was heavily injured and died right in her arms before she could realise. The climax of the song was the mom’s cries of agony, asking “Who killed my son in the midst of a peaceful night’s dream?” as she puts his corpse on a patch of grass and gives him a parting kiss before saying goodbye forever. It was a simple and short song, but the mother’s cries and actions kept repeating at the end until the song fades to silence, showing the lingering pain and painful memory and agonizing thoughts replaying in her mind.
These songs act as grim reminders for future generations of the horrors of war. Regardless of whichever side one took during the war, the lives that were lost were lives of real, living people – people who had dreams, aspirations, memories, future plans, love and hatred, friends and family. They remind everyone of the Tet when the sound of fireworks became sounds of bombshells falling and helicopters overhead; when the faint melodies of favourite songs about spring became radio announcements of emergency evacuations; when the sounds of families cheering and gathering for dinner became cries of pain and loss. The songs written in this period especially highlight these humane characteristics that made these events much more haunting – something that numbers and statistics in historical reports cannot convey.
4. Golden music reflects the ideologies of people at the time through the songs of those writers.
Golden music can demonstrate the political landscape of the era as it reflects the ideologies of its creators. People who composed these songs tell their stories, but also implicitly express their political beliefs as well as of the people they interact with. The fact that they may show sadness towards something and happiness through something else through music shows that they have their biases, presumptions and preferences. They also act as the representative for the masses, for the circle that they are a part of, becoming larger voices than a single individual. Throughout their musical career, they may have undergone changes in their beliefs, and this can be examined by following their discography. These changes are noticeable especially with artists who have ventured from place to place and met other people outside of their circle, thus widening their own perspectives to become more profound and all-encompassing.
In addition, people who listen to golden music also demonstrate the “popular opinion” of people at the time. The masses may dictate the current preferred sounds and genres, which influences musicians to cater their songs to their listeners’ tastes. An interviewee reported that in small communities, homes that had music players would play them to neighbours regularly and children would grow up enjoying these songs, associating them with happy memories and continue to spread their popularity to their peers and children in the future. Today, as golden music still has a sufficient following, it shows people’s respect and enjoyment of music made from past musicians, whose viewpoints they may resonate with.
One artist whose viewpoints were conveyed clearly through their works is Phạm Duy. Pham Duy was known as one of the greatest and most prolific artists of this era. He was a singer-songwriter, conductor and music researcher who has contributed hundreds of songs to the Vietnamese music culture. However, he was also known to be an especially turbulent character when it comes to his decisions on which “side” of history he wanted to stay on. During his early years as a musician, he joined the Viet Minh and wrote revolutionary songs to build morale for soldiers fighting the French, with strong and motivational words and simple melodies for troops to sing while in the trenches. Afterwards, he moved to Saigon when he was disillusioned with the strict Northern Communist government, who told him that his music was “too pessimistic”, or “too romantic”. At this time, his music was greatly popular in Southern Vietnam and was “heard almost every day on the radio and in the tea houses; they were the songs on the lips of everyone who had ever been in love.” After the fall of Saigon, he and his family moved to the United States and continued to write music “in exile”. Finally, after 30 years, in 2005, he decided to return to Vietnam and passed away in Saigon at the age of 91. The day he returned, there was a large concert held in honour of his name, known as “Phạm Duy – Ngày trở về” (Day of return). Most people were happy to welcome him back to his hometown, but some showed their disdain at his perceived opportunistic and hedonistic lifestyle and lack of loyalty to the Party. In the end, he was known as an important artist in the Vietnamese music industry first, and an unrelenting pursuer of love, beauty and comfort second. More than how he was perceived was how his creations garnered so much support with his multi-perspective inclusions. Through his experiences both domestic and abroad, his music spoke to people of varying viewpoints and acts as a collage of opinions of people of a bygone era.
Chapter 2: “Old music in a New age” – the role of golden music in the modern world
1. Golden music helps Vietnamese people reconnect with the past
Golden music helps Vietnamese people connect with the past. The generation gap is thought to be one of the hardest gaps to bridge, but golden music might just be the tool for it. The sounds and lyrics of golden music in particular and music, in general, are indicative of the lifestyle of the people in that time. It is a window into the life of the previous generation, allowing the youth to understand their elders. It helps them understand how their past generation found solace in the troubled past and face the current times. It tells them the story of their families, the hardships and joy they went through to provide for their children; it applauds the next generation of Vietnamese their elders were able to build; it reminds them who they are and where they came from; it opens them to the world that they lived in and their origins.
Listening to this type of music, one may notice recurring themes unfamiliar to modern-day media, such as enjoyment of the simple things in life despite harsh living conditions, or difficulty in long-distance communication that made one’s reunion much more meaningful. It shows how impactful these elements were in the lives of the past generation, of every Vietnamese parent or grandparent, concepts that may be alien to the youth and hard to understand. And yet, these alien concepts are fundamental in their upbringing and influence them to become the people that they are today. One may roll their eyes when their parents criticize modern-day music for being “shallow” or “tasteless”, but this is because their music was shaped in a different culture, a harsher environment where basic necessities such as meat and clean water, or even the idea of having all family members living together safely at home was considered a luxury. The notion of melancholy and depression in times of peace and prosperity might be as foreign to them as their musical culture to the youth. By having a better knowledge of the music they listen to, one might be more understanding of the person’s attitude and reaction towards certain things in life and have more empathy towards what they have been through.
Despite the length of time since its heyday, golden music remains desired by many people across the globe. On the internet, many golden music forums are made for fans to have discussions and share song files for others to download for personal use. The demography of these forums is middle-aged to old people who have a hobby of collecting or recording their own cassettes, tapes and records of golden music. They seek vintage technology, hunt for audio files of their favourite albums, offer spare machine parts or sell second-hand music players to each other. In addition, there are many cafes that specialize in sharing golden music. They build a “vintage” atmosphere with their decorations of old posters, using old fonts and writing mannerisms in their signs and menus, and having golden music playing in the background. Some places also have large collections of vinyl records, cassettes, magnetic tapes and antique music recorders on display. Most cafes of this type may act as unofficial “headquarters” for the mentioned forum users who wish to meet up and trade their experiences, rare records, music recording gear, or to introduce newcomers to the hobby of collecting records and appreciating golden music. Apart from being a meeting point, these cafes also offer a portal to Saigon in the 60s and 70s. These are places for music lovers to gather, but also those who are interested in experience a slice of life in a Saigon long past.
2. Golden music gives voice to those who are “in exile” to tell their stories
Golden music is an important factor in recreating a Vietnamese identity for the diasporic communities. For those “in exile”, golden music gives them a voice to tell their story that would have otherwise been disregarded by local Vietnamese history. Artists turn to music because it helps them share experiences that are sometimes only expressible through sound rather than words, or perhaps give words and sounds to emotions that others do not know how to convey. They contain sounds that are unique to an era, taken from their origins and combined with the journeys of their writers to establish a new culture that resonates with the communities of Vietnamese living among foreigners around the world. When one listens to music with these certain qualities, certain usage of words for lyrics and certain instruments, they instantly recognize which time period it is from, or which group of people performed it. For the generations that grow up in a foreign land despite having Vietnamese blood, this music brings their roots closer to them and help them bond over a common heritage, as a reminder of their shared history, and in the present, their shared reality. Similar to traditional food like pho, or traditional clothes like ao dai, golden music becomes part of one’s Vietnamese identity no matter the language or geographical barrier.
“Exile music” (Nhạc hải ngoại) is the spiritual successor to golden music and one that defines the connection to Vietnamese roots in diasporic communities. After the “Fall of Saigon”, many Saigonese fled Vietnam to other countries. This separation from their homeland led to them becoming incredibly homesick. A large portion of refugees resided in the US, many of whom were composers and singers. They preserved many elements of traditional music in their songs and spread this culture among other Vietnamese immigrants, such as teaching and making traditional music instruments, keeping the art of cải lương (traditional theatre) Many also continued writing songs in the style of golden music, telling stories of hardship during the war, writing more “sappy” love songs, expressing their love and longing for their homeland, and creating broadcasts for their old favourite hits. This music is well-received in Southern Vietnam since its conception, so much that people were smuggling and pirating records to distribute in Vietnam when the ban has not been lifted. After 2000, exile music was allowed to be freely shared and products from labels such as Asia, Thuy Nga, Van Son, etc. are widely played in households.
The largest contribution is arguably Paris by Night, a long-running variety show started by Thuy Nga Productions and focuses mainly on expressing Vietnamese culture to immigrants and people in Vietnam. Despite the ever-changing trends of modern times, it sticks to its roots and stayed with broadcasting songs written from older times, keeping the Vietnamese image. The show provides Vietnamese families around the globe a place to hear the sounds of their culture and become more strongly attached to their homeland. It allows different generations in a family to share their experiences and spend time with each other through the enjoyment of music.
With this project, I hope to generate more awareness towards Golden music and help it gain more relevancy, considering its importance towards Vietnamese history. It was made by artists who aspired to motivate people and soldiers in particular in the earlier period of a war-ridden Vietnam and to provide entertainment and solace for the Vietnamese people afterwards both domestically and abroad. Nowadays, it serves as a reminder of the past and shows the evolution of Vietnamese society, detailing every step of the way from the harshness of war to the delight of liberty. The music expresses the thoughts and perspectives of the musicians as well as the people around them, sharing and culminating into an emotional and personalized representation of Southern Vietnam at that time. Beyond showing the past, it acts as a bridge for foreign Vietnamese families especially, reconnecting them to the sounds and spirit of their original homeland. Moreover, it helps retain a level of respect and appreciation of that era for generations to come, through connecting the Vietnamese youth of today to their parents and grandparents. It is unrealistic of me to wish for a resurgence of sorts for Golden Music but I can hope that the songs of the previous generation are kept closely with Vietnamese tradition and culture.
On a personal level, I would love to see the next generation taking an interest in their elders’ past after having listened to this music, allowing them to bond more with their predecessors and ultimately strengthening family connections. When I interviewed my dad on his experience with golden music, I realised why he loved these songs so much. This music brings him back to a simpler time before his father was taken away from him due to the events of 1975, before his family fell into poverty and they had to sell everything, including the music player and all of the records of the songs he loved, before he grew up and was burdened with everyday worries and responsibilities as an adult. Now that he finally has the time to slow down and appreciate the things around him, I am grateful golden music still remains to give him the solace he deserves.
Lê, Dinh and Minh Kỳ – “Hạnh phúc đầu xuân” (Happiness in early spring), performed by Thanh Thúy. 1973.
Lê, Dinh and Minh Kỳ – “Cánh thiệp đầu xuân (Early spring postcard), performed by Thanh Thúy. 1972.
Minh Kỳ – “Xuân đã về” (Spring is here), performed by Thanh Lan. 1973.
Anh Chương – Ngày đầu một năm (First day of a year), performed Thanh Thúy. 1973
Nguyễn, Văn Đông. “Chiều Mưa Biên Giới” (“A rainy afternoon in the borderlines”) manuscript. Tinh Hoa Miền Nam Publishings, no. 3866/BTT/PHNT (19-8-1971).
Nguyễn, Văn Đông. “Chiều Mưa Biên Giới” (“A rainy afternoon in the borderlines”). Performed by Trần Văn Trạch. Shotguns Records, no. 11 (1961)
Nguyễn, Văn Đông. “Chiều Mưa Biên Giới” (“A rainy afternoon in the borderlines”). Performed by Hà Thanh. Continental Records: “Một bông hồng cho tình yêu (“A rose for love”) (1970).
Nguyễn, Văn Đông. “Chiều Mưa Biên Giới” (“A rainy afternoon in the borderlines”). performed by Giao Linh. 1989. Son Ca Records, no. 6 (1989).
Trầm, Tử Thiêng. “Chuyện một chiếc cầu đã gãy” (Story of a broken bridge). Performed by Hoàng Oanh. Instrumental by Y Vân. Việt Nam Records (25-5-1968).
Trịnh, Công Sơn. “Hát trên những xác người” (“Singing on dead bodies”). Performed by Khánh Ly. Pat Lâm Records, “Hát cho quê hương Việt Nam” (“Sing for Vietnam, my hometown”) (1969).
Anh, Bằng and Vũ Chương. “Chuyện một đêm” (The story of a night). Performed by Hoàng Oanh. ASIA Sóng Nhạc Records (1972).
Phạm, Duy. Phố Buồn (“Sad city”). Performed by Thanh Thúy. ASIA Records, no.18 (1998).
Phạm, Duy. Ngày trở về (Day of return). Performed by Khánh Duy (1973). Trường Sơn Records, no. 1 (1969).
Khánh, Duy. “Băng nhạc Trường Sơn 1”. Trường Sơn Records. 1969.
Chánh, Ngọc. “Shotguns Xuân 1973” (Shotguns Spring 1973). Shotguns Records 12A Crystal Palace. 1973.
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 “Vũ Chương” is one of the artistic aliases of the band consisting of Anh Bằng, Lê Dinh and Minh Kỳ.