Favorite Video(s) of the Week: Cam Ly

Minh Oi (My Honey) – Cam Ly

A few weeks ago, I was home sick and exploring all the new non-English HD stations. I spent a good long time flipping between Korean cooking shows, Armenian commercials and Asian soap operas. One Vietnamese soap opera in particular attracted my full attention. I was pulled in by the tropical setting, the dramatic tension and then, the characters began to sing. The instrumentation sounded traditional and the melodies were everything I could ask for in a song: complex, meandering, evocative. The singing plaintive and melancholy. Were they singing about bittersweet love, family members long gone or decisions made in a hurry resulting in dire consequences? It didn’t matter, I was entranced.

The next day I went back to work and asked one of my Vietnamese co-workers if she could recommend some “traditional” Vietnamese music. She explained that most popular artists sing both traditional and modern songs and it was difficult to just get a CD of one or the other. A few days later, she handed me a stack of CDs to try and I brought them home to listen. Unfortunately, most were the usual faux-American pop sounding mush with the requisite Mariah Carey style runs completing the effect. However, just as my co-worker said, there were a few more traditional sounding gems mixed in. One of these was Minh Oi by Cam Ly.

Just as I often do when I hear something new, I looked her up on Youtube and came across this amazing live performance of this gorgeous song. There is something in her eyes, I can’t quite define it, perhaps it’s sorrow but there is something in her expression and singing that goes way beyond what I would expect from a pop singer.

By the way, Vietnamese music benefits from a bit of musical philanthropy, a contribution of Indian musical influences in melody and rhythm have made my ears hungry for these alluring songs.

Another Cam Ly song as melancholy and gorgeous as the first…

Buồn Hát Lý Chờ Mong – Cẩm Ly (2/2)

This is the second part of a longer video (part one here) so I think I need to give some context to the on-going story in this video.

A sweet, young pregnant wife must take charge of the household because her jerky irresponsible husband blows all their money on his annoying gambling habit, a daily card game with his Donald Duck sounding friends. His friends are even jerkier and get him to bet more and more money, till there is none left. Despite raiding his wife’s pockets and her secret hiding places, he demands she give him the money she’d been saving for their soon-to-be-born baby. She’s like hell no, I’m already out in my boat everyday trying to rustle us up some food and now you’re gonna take my last pennies, uh-uh. Then his stupid friend is like be a man, get the money homes. And like the vice infested jerk he his, he smacks her and she’s like OK you gonna be like that, take the damn money. And off she goes in her little boat to a better life.

It’s hard though and she’s out in the jungle chop, chopping for her food. Then the baby comes and the little thing grows up so fast, she’s almost tall enough to reach the coconuts. So mom is still all badass and expresses her sorrow through the most beautiful songs. The little girl is happy but wonders, where’s pop?

Well, pop is fresh outta money and gets his thrill through vicarious gambling voyeurism but his swindling, no-good friends are sick of his metiche ways and shun him. Then pop, blubbering and retrospective, gets some kinda revelation. Off he wanders, like a walking palapa hut regretting his poor jerky choices in life and pining for the beautiful wife and child he left behind. Will they ever forgive him?

In a tears from heaven scene he comes across them, and the real treasures of life become very apparent. In a tense last second happy ending, his daughter accepts him with a forgiving greeting…but does his wife?

I love this song!

Cam Ly

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