The “Are you a real Vietnamese?” test

(This was written some time last week and has been left to lurk around in “Drafts” with about 50 other half-baked entries. Ugh! Bad writer! Bad blogger! Bad whinger!)

Last night, at precisely 12 o’clock, yours truly was still up playing with a glue stick. Hmm… that doesn’t sound right. Well, before anyone starts imagining (inappropriate) things, I was making cards, lots of cards, piles and piles of cards. As if my life depended on it. After spending a considerable amount of dollars on beautiful patterned paper and all sorts of gadgets, that wasn’t too unexpected, I don’t think.

Anyhow, you’d never imagine what kind of music was blaring out of my laptop. Brace yourselves! It was a string of cheesy, corny, sticky, easy-listening tunes. Performed by these obscure bands that you might have never heard of, if you weren’t a Vietnamese living in Vietnam during the 80’s and 90’s. I’m talking Air Supply, Michael Learns to Rock, Modern Talking, and a few more “internationally-recognised” groups such as M2M, Westlife, Ace of Base. You know the type. Oh, and also Richard Clayderman and Paul Mariat.

AirSupply  mt1988  michael-learns-to-rock 

That reminds me of a friend who recently mentioned Air Supply’s upcoming concert in Melbourne. Which then reminded me of the fact that A. – a self-acclaimed Skip, born and bred right here on Koala-land, had no idea that the duo were Aussies! When I told him that, he even had to google it, just in case. Upon such activity I had to roll my eyes and went, Dude, you really have no idea how much Vietnamese people love these guys. We know all their songs, have watched all their clips, memorised all their lyrics. We have sung “Making love out of nothing at all” so many times, even the national anthem got jealous.

And Modern Talking, don’t even get me started. Despite the fact that they were neither modern, nor were they talking, I grew up with them. My Dad had a few of their tapes that were constantly on repeat in our household, until they started to squeak. (Those, and a few ABBA numbers.) I’ve always wondered if they were as famous in Germany where they came from, as they were loved in Vietnam. Probably not.

Then there was Michael Learns to Rock in the 90’s. Oh yeah, my dear friends, you may cringe now. But the flashbacks! All those flashbacks! That was how we learnt English back in highschool. Through corny songs. I remember one time we went on a day trip, and midway through crossing a creek, we were all standing there, soaking wet, belting out the worst rendition of “That’s why you gooooo away, IIIII know!” I really thought we were so damn cool. WE all thought WE were so damn cool! Especially that guy whom I had the hots for, who didn’t pay any attention to me but had his eyes on another girl who was liked by about 10 other guys. (Such was the way things go in highschool.) And oh, was I heart-broken. Which might have contributed to the extra loudness of my singing at the creek. Like, ok, so you broke my heart? Well, I’m going to perforate your eardrums. Hah!

Anyway, let’s not digress. 

Recently, after a dinner at a pho place where, wouldn’t you guess?, “All Out Of Love” seemed to be the flavour of a new broth! I told A. about all these bands and he went why? Why do Vietnamese love those kinds of music so much? And I was at a loss to explain. Maybe because we’re (trying to be) romantic? Maybe because those tunes are more similar to the melancholy that dominates Vietnamese songs, in both the melody and the lyrics? All sadness and heartbreak and shattered dreams. Maybe because we’re lazy? And easy listening is just that, easy to listen? Maybe it’s a combination of all of those? I don’t know. I only know that we like it like that.

On a slightly different angle, it’s the same with instrumental music. If you learned, (or in my case, forced to learn) to play the piano in Vietnam, you’d come to hate the Prince of Romance, namely Richard Clayderman. To be fair, I do think his songs are great. Until they are played every-effing-where, all the effing time, driving me so very effing nuts! (Excuse the French, haha, pun intended. He’s French, after all, a very good looking one at that, too.) I remember getting to a stage where if anyone asked me to play one of his songs, I had the sudden urge to either poke myself in the eyes or clam my fingers under the piano lid. Just to get out of that misery. There’s also Paul Mauriat, who composed similar kind of tunes, and transcribed a good many classical songs into, er.., easiER listening numbers, and partly contributed to my eye-poking and finger-clamming reflexes.

Much to my glee, a few years back, Mr. Clayderman was slowly replaced by Yanni The Sexy Greek (have you seen his full moustache?) to be the most-played music at all fashion shows, music shows, TV programs, radio commercials, outdoor, indoor, ubiquitously. But then I shouldn’t have been so smug because soon enough, it again got to a point where I was like, “if I have to hear “Santorini” one more time, I’d proceed to break my own eardrums! Someone get me a chopstick quick!” For your info, this was while I wasn’t even living in Vietnam, only visiting every year or so. Although these days, my musical radar has reported that a certain Yiruma is taking the little Annam country by storm. He is, apparently, the new Clayderman. Time to move over, Yanni, and take your sheet music away too, won’t you? Also, I do think that George Winston has been dubbed as the new Paul Mauriat for a while now, and no one has yet to claim his place. Any suggestion for new nominations?

But after all that ranting, I need to stress again, that I do love their music, light, airy, fluffy, or otherwise. I don’t condone music snobbery, or any other kind of snobbery for that matter. There is a place and time for everything. My problem is when it’s played repeatedly, day in, day out, driving everyone to the point of insanity! (Which is actually not that much different to commercial radio these days.) It makes us lazy, less creative, and *gasp* boring! So one day, out of mind-numbing boredom, I went and got myself some Bach and some Grieg, and after 30 minutes of practise, Dad came down the stairs with a puzzled look on his face, “What is it that you’re playing? It’s so noisy!”

So it’s back to the French man for me. I guess when I’m home with the folks, Anitra* really has no place, stuff her dance! It’s all about Adeline** and her flippin’ ballad.

 ~amy: a wannabe pianist who has the amazing ability to turn even a drippingly romantic Clayderman’s number into one of the most noisy, cacophonous, and soul-shattering torture sessions!~

* Anitra’s Dance ~ Edvard Grieg (not piano but this version is nice.)

** Ballade Pour Adeline ~ Richard Clayderman (and the man himself is still so freakin’ cute!)

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Nhà lãnh đạo của ngày mai

“Thứ hai là ngày đầu tuần, bé hứa cố gắng ăn chơi.”

Lẽ ra bữa nay mình được nghỉ ngơi, xả hơi, ăn chơi, đi bơi, nói chung là sướng mê tơi. Vì thứ hai là chủ nhật của mình. Nhưng vì đã lỡ dại dột dấn thân vào con đường phạm pháp, ý lộn, con đường học vấn, cho nên phải chết dí ở nhà làm ợt-xai-mần. (Như đã càm ràm đưa tin ở bài trước.)

Thường thì khi có ợt-xai-mần phải nộp ngày hôm sau, thì cái tính lần lữa, trì trệ, làm biếng đã ăn sâu từ cái hồi học đại học (từ thế kỷ trước) lại nhảy cái bịch ra chặn ngang đường. Những lúc này mình hay muốn làm những việc hiếm hoi họa hoằn lắm mới làm. Ví dụ như chơi gỡ mìn (Minesweeper). Gỡ cặm cụi, gỡ miệt mài, gỡ với một nhiệt huyết chống đối mìn còn hơn công nương Diana khi xưa. Hoặc như hôm nay, khi mà anh Corporate Environmetal Responsibilty ảnh cứ đon đả mời chào, vào đây em ơi, vào đây với anh, thì mình lại muốn vắt giò lên cổ mà chạy thiệt xa. Thực ra thì ai cũng biết là tại ảnh khô khan, chán nhách, chả có xíu hấp dẫn nào; ai cũng biết là mình thà phải ngồi nhai một cái tô đầy tóc rưới mắm nêm, còn hơn là phải… à… xà nẹo với ảnh.

Nhưng ảnh lai cứ đeo mình như cái con vật mềm mềm nhũn nhũn sống dưới nước hay hút máu người. (Eo!) Nên sau khi trốn tránh bằng cách chạy lên WordPress và Facebook, lượn qua lượn lại một hồi, thì mình chuồn ra ngoài phòng khách lôi cái đờn yêu dấu ra mà rải vài bài. Nói nôm na là tra tấn lỗ nhĩ các nhà bên cạnh. Ôi, bao lâu rồi các phím ngà phím mun không được thấy ánh sáng mặt trời, vì chủ nhân nó suốt ngày lo chạy nhong nhong ngoài đường, hay mài đũng quần ở chỗ làm, hay cà kê bên nhà Thằng Chả. Bữa nay được lôi ra hát ca nhạc Việt Nam ta, thì thiệt không gì bằng. Cho nên mình cứ thế mà tự đờn, tự rống, tự dzỗ tay, tự lượm đá từ bên nhà hàng xóm chọi qua cửa sổ. Nói chung là rất dzui.

À, có cái này dzui hơn, bạn nào cũng có 1 (hoặc nhiều) cây đờn thì đây, 2 bài nhạc hay hay tui tự mò chords ra để tha hồ mà gào. Xin thoải mái copy, in ra, gõ đờn theo, và điều chỉnh âm thanh quá mức đủ nghe nhằm mục đích làm phiền nhà bên cạnh. Và có gì sai sót xin vui lòng chỉ bảo. Đa tạ. Đa tạ.

Cam on 1 doa xuan ngoi

Cam on 1 doa xuan ngoi

Niem khuc cuoi

Niem khuc cuoi

Thôi, anh CER ảnh lại gọi rồi. hic… Mà ảnh lại được dàn hậu thuẫn đông đảo của bà cô, khoa Business & Law, và trường VU, nên thôi đành phải vô viết cho xong quách cha cho nó rồi. (Nghe bức xúc chưa? Miểng bắt đầu văng rồi đó.) Cộng thêm Thằng Chả mới i-meo biểu em không học thì anh sẽ quẳng nguyên cái piano, cộng với hết bao nhiêu đồ nghề làm thiệp, giấy bìa đẹp các kiểu của em lên eBay. Sợ chưa? Nên thôi dạ em đành lủi thủi, lững thững, lếch thếch đi làm bài tiếp đây. Ay daaa…

~songbird~

PS: Tựa bài là dịch từ câu danh ranh ngôn mình ưng ý nhất, tới nỗi mua 2 cái áo y chang có in khẩu hiệu này, phòng khi bận 1 cái cũ rồi thì còn cái kia làm vốn – “Procrastinators: Leaders of Tomorrow”!

Beat. Dance. Not related.

One time we were breaking out some crazy dance moves in the middle of a gelati shop. As we do, you know. Granted, it was a long queue for a scoop of mouth-watering mandarin flavoured ice. But I also must admit, it happens quite often because I can’t listen to a good song without feeling this intense itch to twitch. (I’ve got issues!) And what good is there, I ask thee, to have a partner who can dance (i.e. dance partner, duh!), if you can’t burst into some random steps in weird places?

So as uncordinated as we are, the trick is to have fairly thick, bullet-proof skin. Otherwise there’s no way you can survive the fierce, incredulous stare from passers-by, who must wonder what asylum has let these two lunatics run loose in their dancing shoes? Such is the state of our mental health care system, pah!

Anyhow, as the lead, A. would sometimes be so concentrating on the moves, he loses the beat of the song. So this time, in the middle of all that  swirling & twirling, swaying & sashaying, he proudly declared:

“I won’t let beat get in the way of my dancing!”

It’s gold, I tell you, PURE GOLD! 🙂

~n.a~

PS: A. asked me to put this on here.
PPS: He doesn’t read my blog.
PPPS: I can badmouth about him all I want. And you’re more than welcome to join me. mwahaha…

Cultural Calendar & The Bar at Buena Vista

I thought I’d better keep track of the shows and gigs that we’ve been and are going to. Not to brag. Okay, not just to brag, but to have a record for myself. You know, so half a century later when I’m old and senile, when accessing the WWW from your laptop is something to be documented in a museum, when my grandkids have in-built chips in their heads to access the Net anytime, anywhere, especially when they’re away on Jupiter on a business trip. Then, then I can sit down and go through this old blog and go “Ah… the olden days. Fifty years ago on this day we went to see a Japanese Drumming show and I sulked at A. for claiming to know the way there and refusing to consult the MelWay, when clearly he didn’t. What’s it about men & maps? Pah! He still does that. Just the other day we were on the way to Mercury to play bridge for the weekend, and because he chose to drive a manual spaceship, I had to sit on the passenger seat, watching him steering us all the way to Neptune AND back, completely ignored my SolarWay shouting out directions!” You know, things like that.

Most of the time I have the best intention to write about the event afterwards.   But being a self-proclaimed Procrastinator (with a capital P), I never seem to get around to it. Wicked the musical, Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion, the French Film Festival, etc. etc. never got mentioned except for a short blurb on facebook alerting my friends to buy tix and go see them too.

So I’m thinking, for my own sake, maybe I’ll just jot down some brief info and include some links. And later when I have more time (which is likely to be NEVER), I can sit down and yap about them in detail.

Anyhow. For a starter. Tonight we’re seeing this (thanks to m’ for organising):

buena-vista-social-club

The Bar at Buena Vista – The Legendary Grandfathers of Cuban Music

The Bar at Buena Vista pays homage to the Buena Vista neighbourhood – the famous quarter of Havana and Cuba’s music legends, such as the late Compay Segundo and Ruben Gonzalez.  It is a dedication to the original spirit of the music of Cuba, the lifeblood of a people whose heritage is as rich as it is old. A cast of Cuba’s most notable and legendary musical greats, drawn from the most renowned music quarter in the World, Barrio Buena Vista.

The Bar at Buena Vista brings us a cocktail of Cuban music and dance, in the tradition of The Buena Vista Social Club, The Afro Cuban All-Stars and Vieja Trova Santiagera.

When & Where: 8pm Friday 1 May 09, @ Hamer Hall, Arts Centre

Who: m’, A., me

Extra reading material (!): Buena Vista Social Club

Aren’t they good? I’d better get ready to break into a ( very uncoordinated) tango in the aisle next to our seats.

~t2~

Tinpan Orange

(http://www.tinpanorange.com/)

tinpan-orangeThey’re this new band that I’m currently obssessed with. That’s to put it mildly. We discovered them by accident when Tam took us to Bennetts Lane to watch Renee Geyer a few months back, and they were guest performers for the night. Yesterday A. & I went to watch their own gig in Manchester Lane. Needless to say, we had a ball!

One thing both of us agree on is supporting local bands. Although in my case, a lot of the local Aussie bands play the type of noisy punk rock I can’t stomach. No offence meant. Just a personal preference. I tend to gravitate towards the cleaner, clearer, more acoustic sound. Electronic instruments don’t interest me. They hurt my eardrums and all start to sound the same after 2 songs. (Which, I guess, definitely harks back to the fact that I’m unbelievably low-tech and prefer things the manual, old-fashioned way.)

But this group? This group is totally my piece of cake, my kettle of fish, my cup of tea. Oh yes they are! The melodies are soothing, uplifting, entrancing. The lyrics are deep, meaningful, thought provoking. Their voices are haunting, absorbing, mesmerising. And the mix of acoustic guitars, a mandolin, a violin, a trumpet, a keyboard, occasionally a ukulele, is nothing but addictive. Crack in the form of floating musical notes, I’d say.

Last time I checked, the count of my E:\ drive yielded more than 5000 songs, but I must admit to being very picky when it comes to music. Listen to a lot, like only a very few. But Tinpan Orange has now been located right up there next to Norah Jones, Jewel, and Five For Fighting on my playlist.

Anyway, enough with my ramble, go read a bit more about the band and have a listen for yourself here: http://www.tinpanorange.com/ (Check out the player to the left of the page.) Although obviously, nothing compares to listening to them live. Where you can watch Alex breaking into a 2-minute solo on the guitar that would make even Mark Knopfler nod in amazement, or Emily getting so absorbed in the music her body starts to sway every which way and she wouldn’t care. And you’d sit there entranced, like a little puppet possessed, your mind purging away all thoughts and there’d be nothing but magic seeping into your every pore. It’s so real, and yet so surreal.

Anyhow, if you’re in Melbourne, kindly get yourself to one, or all, of their gigs. Preferably the indoor ones. In my opinion, outdoor performances aren’t good for this type of music. You can’t “feel” it the same way. If you’re  not in Aus, well I think you can order their CD’s online. Just don’t blame me when you get hooked and find yourself stalking the band everywhere & every time they’ve got a live show on. You’ve been warned!

~ today I found my innocence
down that same crooked road
reminded by an old man
who stoped to smell a rose~

(“Lost and Found”)

Note to self: Songs NOT to be played in public

In particular, not at the shop. No matter how much you’re obsessed with them and are just itching to belt along at the top of your lungs. No matter how cool they sound, pumped all the way up in the car, or at a party, or for those times when you feel like dancing around the house in a horrid tracksuit, holding up a rolled up magazine as a microphone. They’re simply inappropriate, you hear me?, IN-AP-PRO-PRI-ATE, for the ears of dear old nannas, with their cute little grandkids in tow.

Apart from the obvious that is a large chunk of R&B and hip hop songs, the list also includes, but not limited to, these tunes:

~ Many of Amy Winehouse’s numbers, especially “**** ** Pumps” and the first line in “Back to Black!

~ “Money Money Money” from the Cabaret soundtracks. It’s true that “Money makes the world go round, that clinking clanking sound“, but not a good idea to shove that into your customers’ faces.

~ “Used to Love Her (But I Had to Kill Her)” by Guns & Roses. Need I say why?

Plus a few more that I may have to add into a special folder now. hmm… On the other ear, songs that CAN be played are Celine Dion’s, Dean Martin’s, Michael Buble’s, etc. etc. … YAWN… zzzZZZzzz…

Don’t get me wrong, I love those guys, but one must admit that when one only had a few hours of sleep the previous night, those soft, tender, flowing melodies can get rather anesthetic. 🙂

~leaf~

The other Amy

You know, the Winehouse one? The one that went to school with me. She was 4 years below and I used to pull her hair and drag her to choir practice. We broke contact after the day I found her grounding up our teacher’s chalk & snorting it up her nostrils. I really should have dobbed her in to the headmaster back then huh? Early intervention could have helped. Geez, this guilt that weighs on my shoulder. *sigh*

Anyhoo, enough with the crappy bad-taste joke. Just that I’ve been rather taken with her “Back to Black” song for the last few days. (Thanks to the predictable nightly playlist at The Woolshed in Cairns, which had us listening to the same songs over and over again. Good thing theirs was a good selection.) Not big on the lyrics but the melody & her voice haunt me so much that I’ve had it on repeat for 2 days straight. And with certain songs, when I say repeat I really mean REPEAT. I mean constantly playing with no breaks in between and no other song squashed in the middle. I mean if you were in the same room with me you’d probably want to either pour lead in your ears or poke me in the eyes after about 2 minutes. Thank goodness m’ has developed a highly advanced skill of self-restraint, after all these years living with me. 🙂

Well ef-why-ai, nope I haven’t been living under a rock, and yes I’ve always liked Ms. Winehouse’s edgy husky voice — its incredible depth — just never was this addicted. (Oops, pun not intended.) Not that I have anything against her, it’s just that her chaotic mess of a personal life seems to have entirely taken over her immense success. It kinda put me off falling for her songs & following her stories. Because it’s like watching a person — an extremely talented one at that too — dying a slow, slow death. It’s just too sad.

But then there was a time, while being lost amongst a massive throbbing crowd of people, in a lowly lit bar, with a wickedly delicious cocktail in your hand and the strangest feeling of detachment in your heart; somehow it was such a feeling to succumb to this soulful dark music. You tune in, and you immerse your mind in it, and you don’t hear anything else.

Ah, the beauty of Squashy Comfy Lounge Chair (3 cups) and High-definition Surround Sound System (4 cups), all hand-mixed together in a bowl of Moody Ambience (375g), with Subdued Lighting sprinkled on top (2 tablespoons). Optional ingredient: Unstable State of Mind (5 cups, add to taste).

~” And life is like a pipe. And I’m a tiny penny rolling up the walls inside.”~