Words and images by Nguyễn Đức Tùng for Hanoi Grapevine
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The combination of ANNAM duo and visual artist Cao Hoàng Long (photo by VCCA)
“Our Light” might not be considered an exceptional music show, but it made me and other audience understand more about the power of Vietnamese native culture in contemporary music scene. The event was co-organized by Hanoi Grapevine and Vincom Center for Contemporary Art (VCCA) last weekend, October 26th.
The “journey” began with the sound of lip lute – an instrument of the H’mong people, combined with the sound of Mèo people’s flute and electronic sound installations. At this time, the screen showed a continuous change of colors. Those lights seemed to curl together, then spilled out of the borders of the 2-dimensional screen, crept into the gaps of the dark room. The artists gradually led the audience into a fantasy world.
Dustin NGO (Nguyễn Phan Huy) from ANNAM playing the lip lute
THDC (Vũ Phương Thảo) from ANNAM duo with her flute
Going deeper into that world, the sound and light gradually became complicated and multidimensional. The audience caught a mighty and magnanimous aura from the Suona. This musical instrument is originated from Persia, following the Silk Road to some European and Asian countries. Suona has also been introduced into Vietnam and has become an instrument of some ethnic groups such as the Tày, Chăm, … The light at this time was no longer monochromatic but increasingly uncertain, intertwined with patterns that seem familiar but also “playful” to the eyes.
Lotus, Khuê Văn Các, calves, dragons of the Lý dynasty, … and motifs bearing Vietnamese culture often appear in the visual story of Cao Hoàng Long (images created by the artist)
At this moment, I temporarily considered myself at the “Traditional” port of the journey with the artists. Looking around, all familiar images were becoming hideously digital. Glitches were “ulcerating” on the surface of Khuê Văn Các and the lotus areas. Along with the increasingly rushing music, the images also constantly overlapped. The light on the screen went out, only the gentle sound of Buddhist scriptures remained.
After few seconds, the light returned to bring more and more metaphorical images. Unlike the “Traditional” port, this “Modern” stop was full of three-dimensional figures. Right in front of each face was a small “screen” with no signals.
The Suona was not as proud as it used to be but a feeling of sorrow and regret. The regret of that persisted until the electronic beats appeared again. The image was no longer just “inanimate” people, the sound of Suona became as strong as before. If any audience fell asleep over persistent grief, this piece was the wake-up call, literally and figuratively. In the following images, the artist’s concept was conveyed in a more suggestive way. According to Dustin, the image of One Pillar Pagoda, radar screens, people lined up with different color bands shows their hope that the young generation can identify the indigenous value in each individual. Each culture has a different “color”, and each person from each particular culture will combine his color with other colors to create a harmonious panoramic environment.
Visual artist Cao Hoàng Long shared about the final image: “In our imaginary world, people are made of porcelain and inside each person has a light source. If we do not know how to take advantage of that light, our eyes are always just a signal-less screen” (image created by the artist)
The performance ended with enthusiastic applause from the audience. Everyone had a very open mind to approach a new genre and actively asked questions or shared their emotions after the surreal “journey” just now. It’s a good signal from the audience for independent artists in particular and the general music scene in Vietnam.
A piece from “Our light”./