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[Podcast] Songs From Southeast Asia: Vietnamese Music Through the Ages

Given the country's geography and the many twists and turns in its history, defining a distinctly Vietnamese sound is no easy feat.

Even in the earliest days of Vietnam, the country’s long, skinny strip of land produced a host of different sounds and instruments. Over time, the evolution of this music, the incorporation of foreign musical styles and the ups and downs of Vietnam’s 20th-century history have only added to this complexity.

For its fourth episode, this is the focus of Songs From Southeast Asia, a podcast produced by the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and broadcasted by the institution's very own radio station, Soas Radio London. In the hour-long program, hosts Thant Sin and Almira are joined by fellow SOAS music enthusiast Cuong, who introduces an array of Vietnamese musical styles and musicians, from the fresh-faced pop stars of today to the revered composers of 20th-century Vietnam to the traditional folk music of centuries past.

This is what makes the program particularly fascinating: within the program, no era or musical style is off-limits. In fact, Cuong’s first song choice for the show is the rock-n-roll 'Hai Trai Tim Vang' by Hung Cuong and Mai Le Huyen, a 1960s musical act from Saigon. A world apart from today’s slow, sugary sweet love ballads, the song sets the tone for the program, in which its three hosts manage to touch upon all the greats — famous composers like Pham Duy and Trinh Cong Son, as well as musical styles such as cải lương and ca trù — while also featuring contemporary musicians, including Le Cat Trong Ly and Son Tung MTP.

Have a listen below:

[Photos via Pleiku Cafe and VpopFan]


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