Phong Nguyen

Is one of the foremost exponents of Vietnamese music in the West and a recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship, this nation's highest honor for achievement in the traditional arts awarded at the White House (1997). Raised in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam, he comes from a family of prominent musicians conversant in musical genres that span the Vietnamese musical spectrum from theatrical to chamber music, folk songs to Buddhist chants. He is a traditionally-trained musician who studied with a village master from the age of five. At the age of 13, he took up Vietnamese theater music and went on to perform both cai luong (reformed theater) and hat boi (classical theater) styles professionally. He sings a large repertoire of dan ca (folksongs from rural settings) and is also master of the complex modal system of tai tu music, a more formal entertainment musical tradition. He also studied with mountain tribal musicians and learned the goong, broh, hi ho, and t'rung bamboo instruments. He left his native land in 1974 and went on to receive his doctorate in ethnomusicology from the Sorbonne University. Since moving to this country he has performed extensively throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe and taught at the University of Washington, U.C.L.A., and Kent State University. He can be heard on the Lyrichord, New Alliance Records, and Music of the World/World Music Institute labels.


International Association
For Research in Vietnamese Music
PO Box 16
Kent, OH 44240
Fax: (330) 673-4434

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Eternal Voices:

Disc One

1. Vong Nguyet 3:49
2. Xe Chi Luon Kim 2:04
3. Ngam Kieu 3:38
4. Hoe Hue/Ly Con Sao 3:50
5. Nam Xuan: To Hue Chuc Cam Hoi Van 4:28
6. Ly Qua Deo 4:42
7. Dao Ngu Cung: Hai Chuyen Xe Hoa 2:27
8. Ly Chieu Chieu 1:45
9. TTrung Tuong Tu: Tuong Tu Da Khuc 8:30
10. Van Da 5:03
11. Suong Chieu/Tu Anh 3:16
12. Co Ban 2:50

Disc Two

1. Nam Ai: Trong Tin Nhan 6:04
2. Improvisation on Dan Tranh (zither) 4:06
3. Improvisation on Sao (flute) 6:59
4. Ngam Tho: Tong Biet Hanh 5:24
5. Luu Thuy/Binh Ban 3:02
6. Van Thien Tuong 3:09
7. Improvisation on the Dan Nguyen (lute) 3:21
8. Ly Ru Con 3:07
9. Vong Co: Hoai Niem 7:55
10. Ly Qua Keu 2:26


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Song of the Banyan
Folk Music of Viet Nam


1. Tay Thi 3:24
2. Ly Lu La 3:10
3. Doc Tau Trong 2:13
4. Do Doc Do Ngang 2:10
5. Ly Qua Keu 2:10
6. Tam Nhac Dan Tranh 3:31
7. Ly Ngua O 3:04
8. Tu Dai Canh 4:05
9. Ngam Tho 4:15
10. Dang Dan Cung/Thu Ho 2:21
11. Qua Cau Gio Bay 4:41
12. Da co Hoai Lang 2:15
13. Luu Thuy/Binh Ban/Kim Tien 4:40
14. Ly Cay Da 1:32


Music of Viet Nam


In Viet Nam, work and entertainment songs thrive among the general public because of their sweet melodies that reflect the activities of rural life. Apart from lullabies, ho and ly are the best known folk song styles. The ho is performed in free rhythm style and was originally sung by boat rowers. ly is a metric song form using comparative meaning of words. Since the 1920s, folk songs in Viet Nam have been adapted by traditional high art and theater groups.

This recording features a variety of musicial genres including dan ca (folk songs), cai luong (theater), nhac tai tu (entertainment) and nhac le (ritual/festival). Vietnamese music is characterised by the prominent use of stringed instruments. Traditiional instruments include the dan tranh (16/17 or 21 stringed zither), the dan nguyet or dan kim (moon-shaped lute), the dan ty ba (pear-shaped lute), the dan nhi or dan co (two stringed fiddle), the dan bau or dan doc huyen (monochord) and the dan day (backless, long-necked lute). Percussion instruments, like drums, gongs, clappers and cymbals are also played by specialised musicians.


Phong Nguyen - strings, voice, percussion
Hoang Oanh - voice
Nguyen Gia Cam - strings
Thu Van - voice, percussion
Kim Oanh - strings, voice percussion
Le Thi Huong Lan - strings


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Music of the Truong Son Mountains

Nestled along Viet Nam Truong Son mountain range, the Central Highlands have long been a safe haven for some twenty non-Viet minority ethnic groups speaking both Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian languages. These people are believed to have settled on the plateau between the sea and the high mountains about 2000 B.C.E. after coming from either Pacific islands or perhaps Central Asia. Their habitat stretches from Song Be province in the South to Quang Binh province in the center of Viet Nam throughout the mountains and even crossing into Eastern Laos and Cambodia.

Music in Central Highlands encompasses both vocal and instrumental types, many exhibiting characteristics likely of ancient origin. The most prominent groups, such as the Bahnar, Jarai, Ede, Trieng, Gie, Mnong and Stieng perform epics, many kinds of social and functional songs and dance all transmitted orally. Gong ensembles requiring varying numbers of performers consititue perhaps the most prominent instrument type, but the upload instrumentarium is rich and vast. The discovery of a prehistoric stone-bladed lithophone at Ndut Lieng Krak in 1949 suggests that this broadly defined music culture preserves some of the oldest musicial instruments of the world, some with tuning systems that probably predate the pelog and slendro systems of Indonesia.

Mother Mountain and Father Sea

Viet Nam, a long, narrow S-shaped land running some 1,700 kilometers from North to South, is flanked by the sea on its Eastern side, with its coastline running 3,444 kilometers. Except for the great plains of the Mekong Delta in the SOuth and the Red River in the North, mountains dominate the interior, somtimes reaching Eastward directly to the sea. There is a Vietnamese folk tale that tells of a mother named Au Co who gave birth to 100 children, all delivered simultaneously in a bag. Fifty remained with the mother in the mountains while the other fifty followed their father to the sea. Symbolised in this story is the Vietnamese belief that the mountains and sea together provide the essentials of life. The Viet majority live along the coast and on the plains where water plays a central role in their lives, the rivers and sea providing fish and rainfall filling the rice fields. Not surprisingly, many folk songs, ceremonies and much folk theatre allude to the water or the sea or in the case of certain rituals take place at or on the sea. The mountains, mostly occupied by upland minority groups, have inspired much folk poetry and many folk songs as well as rituals to mountain deities. The Vietnamese folk pantheon is rife with mountain and sea gods/godesses. Indeed, the Vietnamese term for nation --nui song-- means "mountain and river". When the country was susceptible to attack or under attack, the people called to the mountain and sea deities for protection.

International Association
For Research in Vietnamese Music
PO Box 16
Kent, OH 44240
Fax: (330) 673-4434