Anti – war Songs of Vietnam:
Centre of International Exchanges, Mie University, Japan
Trinh Cong Son (1939 – 2001) is one of the most famous Vietnamese song writers. He began his carrier as a musician in the late 1950’s writing beautiful love songs. He was a big success in the early 1960’s with his marvelous “Diem xua” (Beauty of the Past) or “Bien nho” (Nostalgic Sea) sung by the lady singer Khanh Ly.
After the middle 1960’s when the Vietnam War become more and more serious, he started writing anti – war songs. He went to anti – war meetings organized by students, carrying his guitar and accompanied by Khanh Ly. They performed many anti – war songs.
He created three types of anti – war songs: first, the description of daily life of people in war time like “Dai bac ru dem”(Night Canon Lullaby) which describes citizens who cannot sleep because of the noise of canon fire, or “Mot buoi sang mua xuan”(On a Spring Morning), which describes a boy who steps on a mine.
The second type is about the crying of people. I describe “Tinh ca cua nguoi mat tri”(Love Song of a Mad Woman), which cries about many boy friends all killed in different battles, and “Ngu di con”(Sleep My Boy), a lullaby of a mother for her 20 years old son who dies in the war.
The third type of song is an appeal for peace and reunification. An exempla is “Noi vong tay lon”(The Big Dance Circle) which appeals for unity of the North and the South. It was played on Saigon Radio on the evening of April 30, 1975, the date the war ended.
These anti – war songs were globally admired. They were a success in the USA and France where big Vietnamese communities listened to them. Although the Vietnamese community in Japan is rather small, these songs were popular there also. Trinh Cong Son had the biggest success with his songs translated into Japanese. His anti – war song “Ngu di con”(Sleep My Boy) was sung in Japanese by a famous folk singer and became a big hit song of midnight radio listeners. Thus, Trinh Cong Son’s anti – war songs were universally popular across frontiers.
Over time, his songs were accepted by all Vietnamese people. During the Vietnam War, all Vietnamese governments prohibited them, but the people in the conflict listened to them, even the soldiers of North Vietnam. After the War, Trinh Cong Son’s work before 1975 was prohibited in Vietnam, because they were considered “art of decadence” under the former government. And for oversea Vietnamese, his songs do not have a good reputation any more, because the musician was “a communist” who stayed in Vietnam. However, overseas Vietnamese singers continued to sing them without presenting the composer’s name. And in Vietnam, when the “Doi moi” period arrived, many Vietnamese people began to listen to them again. We can see here the universality of these songs crossing political events and time.
The child who stepped on a mine, the woman who become mad because of the death of her boy friend and the mother who sings a lullaby for her son of 20 years, these themes show us the love of human beings which surpass political opinion, frontiers or time. These are anti – war songs for every war of mankind, not only for the Vietnam War.
That is why we can conclude that Trinh Cong Son’s anti – war songs are universal. As long as mankind continues his vice, war, these songs will continue to be sung across time and frontiers.