Story by Minh Thu

April 02, 2023



For many, Trinh Cong Son's music is "medicine for the soul," and his lyrics are forever a philosophy for meditation.

Trinh Cong Son passed away 22 years ago (on April 1, 2001), but his fans are still overcome with nostalgia. On this occasion, they travel to the "Trinh Kingdom" through songs about love, country, and human faith.


Hong Nhung, a singer from Hanoi, is one of the lucky ones to be close to Trinh Cong Son during the last ten years of his life. She always considered him a teacher, an idol, and a special brother.

Hong Nhung said that the humanistic philosophies of love of life and human faith that musician Trinh Cong Son inspired her with and incorporated into each of his compositions had a profound impact on her.


Despite the musician's absence of more than 20 years, Hong Nhung constantly thinks back on the counsel that musician Trinh Cong Son offered her. One of Trinh Cong Son's quotes that Hong Nhung found particularly memorable is: "When I go outside and see someone waving to me, I will wave back because I don't know if that person will still be there tomorrow or not."

It can be seen that the impermanence of life is always subtly expressed in the songs written by musician Trinh Cong Son, who once claimed that he had been haunted by death since his youth. This also explains why he gave the singer Hong Nhung a seemingly simple piece of advice, which contained a lesson about human love and appreciation for life.

"Life is impermanent, so let's always cherish every moment we are still in this world, cherish every person that appears in our life," Trinh Cong Son once said to Hong Nhung.

"Musician Trinh Cong Son is an amazing mentor in my life," Nhung declared. His music has significantly impacted my spiritual life and always will.

It's a miracle that his perspective and music can soothe the souls of lyric-sensitive vocalists. The melodies then carry on to mend other people's wounds.

Trinh Cong Son music performed by Hong Nhung is therapy for singer Pham Thu Ha, known as the nightingale of semi-classical music, as it helps her get through illness and pain.


Pham Thu Ha has a particularly vivid memory of Trinh's music. Ha had to put her college studies on hold while she traveled far from her family to receive lung therapy. It was then that she bought the album "Nhu Canh Vac Bay," ("Like a Flying Cauldron,") which featured well-known compositions by musician Trinh Cong Son performed by singer Hong Nhung. She played it every day - in the morning, at noon, and at night. It served as therapy to help her overcome her sadness, loneliness, and regret. She understood that her grief made her stronger and better able to face challenges.

"I still sing today, and it's a lovely memory for me. Perhaps music helped heal my lung illness as well. I'm incredibly appreciative of Trinh's music and that beautiful Hong Nhung album, Pham Thu Ha said.

Every time singer Pham Thu Ha listens to or performs Trinh Cong Son music, she finds herself there, feeling safe and protected like she has a companion to talk to.

"In the ambiguous sorrow of that day, Trinh Cong Son's music's flow of love and healing made me feel more forgiving of others and upbeat. Trinh's music was instrumental in helping me look inward to cultivate, train my body and mind, and live a more enlightened life," Pham Thu Ha confided.


Pham Thu Ha asserted that Trinh Cong Son's music is not academic or demands proper singing technique. Actually, the greatest singers of his songs are those who are in touch with their own natural emotions, feelings, and experiences.

"I prefer listening to amateur vocalists perform Trinh songs over professional singers because they do so in a straightforward and emotive manner. The works of Son have a life of their own, a distinct style, and a realm of their own. Son's music will serve as a musical legacy that endures through the ages and generations, comforting countless individuals and inspiring them to respect one another and their country, said Pham Thu Ha.

On Trinh Cong Son’s Remembrance Day (April 1), Pham Thu Ha released three music videos in tribute to the immortal songwriter: "Ru tinh" (Love Lullaby), “Hoa vang may do" (Yellow Flowers in Seasons), "Tien thoai luong nan" (The Dilemma) in classic crossover style.

In the words of renowned author Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong, Trinh Cong Son's music is a "prayer on the edge of the abyss," which refers to the salvation of the spirit when people reach a dead end.

Many people love Trinh's music because it's medicine for the soul, a place to hide when they're upset. Through the lyrics full of philosophy, the audience can also find an escape from their lives.

That's why Trinh's music has a strong vitality in the lives of Vietnamese people, an irreplaceable position in Vietnamese music.

In Hanoi, there is a club called Trinh Ca. It was founded 15 years ago as a meeting place for audiences and singers who love Trinh Cong Son's music.

Located in Cau Giay District, Trinh Ca Club hosts music shows featuring Trinh Cong Son and other outstanding composers of Vietnamese love and romantic music. On a weekly basis, the live shows are also streamed live on its fan page to serve the audience abroad. With its activities, Trinh Ca is playing an increasingly important role in the development of contemporary Vietnamese music. It's a special corner in the capital's music life.


According to singer Le Tam, co-founder of Trinh Ca, artists and audiences often come to enjoy the music nights as a pilgrimage to Trinh's realm. What connects listeners and singers is the empathy in these ideas and philosophies.

He said: "Some people say that the more you listen to Trinh's music, the more you absorb, understand, and love it. There are songs you can listen to today and tomorrow, but sometimes it takes years to understand and take in.

During the past 15 years, singers of Trinh music have come to Trinh Ca Club to perform, exchange with each other, and fete faithful audience with a party of music.

One of the well-known singers of Trinh Ca Club is Dieu Thuy. As a nine-year-old girl, she listened to songs on a neighbor's cassette tape and fell in love with Trinh's music. Her love for music gradually infiltrated, so when she became an adult and chose a singing career, she was always attached to the songs of musician Trinh Cong Son.


Though they never met, a spiritual connection between her and the talented composer makes her fall in love with his music and absorb the philosophy in his lyrics to the very end.

Dieu Thuy said that she was struggling to live and work and that she felt emotions she did not want to share with anyone. So she turned to the music of Trinh Cong Son to get to the root of her grief on her own. As she said, when you see through your suffering, everything becomes easier.

"I look at his music in a different way in each period. There are lyrics and philosophies that I sing and think about many times to understand. There are songs that I understood one way when I was 20 years old and another way when I was 40," she confided.

She believes that everyone can find a part of themselves in the music of Trinh Cong Son, a musician who is profound, kind, and empathetic.

On April 1 and 2, Thuy and the Trinh Ca Club singers will perform a live concert at the Hanoi Opera House to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of composer Trinh Cong Son's death.

“Giac Mo Trinh” (Trinh’s Dream) consists of 20 famous songs with a strong position in Vietnamese audiences’ hearts. However, these songs are remixed to bring a new feeling to audiences.

They are remixed in an acoustic style, and there will be 60 microphones arranged on the stage to amplify the sound. Director Nguyen Quang doesn’t use other digital and electronic equipment to preserve the humble and true sound from the voice of singers and the beat of instruments.

The concerts feature generations of singers famed for Trinh's songs, including those born in the 1970s, like Bich Ngoc, Mai Loan, Thanh Huong, and those born in the 1990s like Hoang Trang or Trinh Tri Anh. That continuation of generations is essential to maintain the goodness of Trinh’s music and love that Trinh Ca Club has pursued for many years.

Young people have their own ways of expressing how they feel and understand Trinh Music.

Among them is Hoang Trang, 25, a young singer who has recently become a phenomenon with new renditions of Trinh's famous songs.

Once, Trang and her boyfriend, guitarist Nguyen Dong, performed the song "Ta da thay gi trong dem nay" (What we saw tonight) in a cafe. The owner shot a video and uploaded it to the social network. After a week, the video had nearly three million views, 7,800 comments, and 40,000 shares.

Soon after, many clips of Hoang Trang singing on social networks and YouTube were heard and praised by many online users.

Hoang Trang was born in Ho Chi Minh City in 1997. She graduated from the Italian Department of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City. After completing her studies, Hoang Trang said she wanted to follow her true passion, which has always been in her heart since childhood: singing!

Hoang Trang said that although she loves to sing, she did not have the time and conditions to study and practice in professional music schools. She only sings in Trinh music lovers' clubs.

In recent years, Hoang Trang had the opportunity to meet and become a student of singer Trinh Vinh Trinh, the younger sister of the late composer Trinh Cong Son.


"I have been pursuing Trinh's music for more than 10 years. My parents love Trinh's music and listen to it all the time, so I had special feelings for his music from a young age," says Hoang Trang about the origin of her passion.

Hoang Trang considers herself an instinctive singer who didn't go to school while performing Trinh's music well requires many factors in both technique and life experience. At a young age, Hoang Trang decided to sing from the heart.

Another young singer who brings a new, free, exciting breeze to Trinh's music is Ha Le with the Trinh Contemporary project. His songs are mixed in an ambient way with a little bit of electronic music and rap.

“The more I listen, the more I realize the sympathy in my soul with composer Trinh Cong Son's, I gradually understand his thoughts and philosophy in beautiful lyrics and melodies. There seems to be a very personal and strange emotional connection between me and Trinh's music,” shared Ha Le.

It took him two years to record seven songs. It's not just the process of making music but the journey of finding himself and realizing many philosophies about life.


“My life also has many broken loves, there are also struggles to find, but the most common thing between me and Trinh Cong Son is that no matter what happens, we also accept it as a natural thing," Ha Le shared.

In Trinh Cong Son's world, falling in love is an experience. Ha Le admits that he loves a lot, but he understands that broken love has nothing to regret, because both have given each other what is true of their hearts.

Currently, young artists are joining hands to create a non-stop flow of Trinh songs in Vietnamese contemporary music, affirming that although the composer has left us for many years, his music always has a strong vitality in our lives.

Trinh Cong Son was born in the central city of Hue in 1939. He rose to popularity in 1957. He went on to become southern Việt Nam’s most famous songwriter of anti-war song collections. Son died in HCM City in 2001 after a prolonged illness. He is the first artist featured on Google’s homepage. In 2004, he received the World Peace Music Award along with Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. The songwriter, poet, and painter is undoubtedly one of Vietnam's most influential figures.



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