Hello Viet Nam — the Best Song About Viet Nam Ever

Happy Asian New Year, everyone!

At the Vietnamese Association of Nova Scotia celebrations, one of their leaders and a friend, Lien, told me about this amazing song called Hello Viet Nam. It is sung by Pham Quynh Anh, with Pham being her last name and Quynh Anh being her first. The Vietnamese who had names outside the ordinal naming system tended to have duo names that were poetic in nature. Marc Lavoine wrote the original song in French called Bonjour Viet Nam. It was later adapted into English by Guy Balbaert, and is known by the Vietnamese title of Xin Chao Viet Nam, though there is not a Vietnamese version of which I am aware. The full story of Pham Quynh Anh and the song’s development is at the end of this post. And yes, Viet Nam is really two words the way the people of the Motherland spells it.

Hey, if your Mother spelled your name in a certain way, wouldn’t you want others to spell it the same way?

Now, I didn’t doubt Lien’s musical tastes or ability to judge music. I had just heard enough songs about Viet Nam over the years and none had really stood out to me. However, just a few seconds into this one, it hit home, I was hooked and knew I had found the best song about Viet Nam I’ve ever heard!

It only took me about 30 years. 🙂

As a relatively new songwriter originally born in Viet Nam, I haven’t even come close to writing a song about Viet Nam. However, I can definitely tell you this one goes in my books as one I wish I had written. Any time you ever meet a songwriter, by the way, ask them for their list of songs they wish they had written. It’s a neat exercise! You can do the same, even if you weren’t one! But here’s Hello Viet Nam.

Tell me all about this name, that is difficult to say.
It was given me the day I was born.
Want to know about the stories of the empire of old.
My eyes say more of me than what you dare to say.

All I know of you is all the sights of war.
A film by Coppola, the helicopter’s roar.
One day I’ll touch your soil.
One day I’ll finally know your soul.
One day I’ll come to you.
To say hello… Viet Nam.

Tell me all about my colour, my hair and my little feet
That have carried me every mile of the way.
Want to see your house, your streets, show me all I do not know.
Wooden sampans, floating markets, light of gold.

All I know of you is all the sights of war.
A film by Coppola, the helicopter’s roar.
One day I’ll walk your soil.
One day I’ll finally know your soul.
One day I’ll come to you.
To say hello… Viet Nam.

And Buddha’s made of stone watch over me
My dreams they lead me through the fields of rice
In prayer, in the light…I see my kin
I touch my tree, my roots, my begin

One day I’ll walk your soil.
One day I’ll finally know my soul.
One day I’ll come to you.
To say hello… Vietnam.

One day I’ll walk your soil
One day I’ll finally know my soul
One day I’ll come to you
To say hello…Vietnam
To say hello…Vietnam
To say xin chào… Vietnam

The song is about a Vietnamese immigrant who has never had a chance to know his/her home. S/he may have been born in the land to which his/her Parents immigrated, or may have been too young to remember when s/he left the country in search of a better life, most likely as one of the Boat People during the mass exodus from the late 1970s to early 1990s. The song captures a curiosity about one’s roots that all immigrants could relate to, though the song is specific to Viet Nam, of course.

Anyway, Hello Viet Nam is the best song about Viet Nam I have ever heard. That much is clear to me. The video I chose is not the official video. Please click here for the official video. I chose it because it shows some footage of Viet Nam about which Quynh Anh is curious to know, although some footage was from the movies. It was also the video with the best audio, and since most of my readers speak English, I chose the English version of the song first. The French version is below. The lyrics below look similar enough to the English that I think the English was a reasonably faithful translation, but I’m no French expert.

Of course, Viet Nam was once a French colony before the Americans came there so it is quite appropriate to have an English/French bilingual version. I’m just surprised the Vietnamese haven’t jumped on it to create a Vietnamese version. They have Vietnamese versions of far more English songs than you know, albeit often with rather adulterous translations (ie. not faithful).

Raconte-moi ce nom étrange et difficile à prononcer
Que je porte depuis que je suis née
Raconte-moi le vieil empire et le trait de mes yeux bridés
Qui disent mieux que moi ce que tu n’oses dire
Je ne sais de toi que des images de la guerre
Un film de Coppola, des hélicoptères en colère

Un jour, j’irai là-bas
Un jour, dire bonjour à ton âme
Un jour, j’irai là-bas
Te dire bonjour, Vietnam

Raconte-moi ma couleur, mes cheveux et mes petits pieds
Qui me portent depuis que je suis née
Raconte-moi ta maison, ta rue, raconte-moi cet inconnu
Les marchés flottants et les sampans de bois
Je ne connais de mon pays que des photos de la guerre
Un film de Coppola, des hélicoptères en colère

Un jour, j’irai là-bas
Un jour, dire bonjour à mon âme
Un jour, j’irai là-bas
Te dire bonjour, Vietnam

Les temples et les Bouddhas de pierre pour mes pères
Les femmes courbées dans les rizières pour mes mères
Dans la prière, dans la lumière, revoir mes frères
Toucher mon arbre, mes racines, ma terre

Un jour, j’irai là-bas
Un jour, dire bonjour à mon âme
Un jour, j’irai là-bas
Te dire bonjour, Vietnam
Te dire bonjour, Vietnam

.

The Story of Pham Quynh Anh and Bonjour Viet Nam

Pham Quynh Anh (born 1987) is a Belgium, ethnic-Vietnamese singer. Her parents were born in Vietnam and immigrated to Belgium, where they met, married and gave birth to Quynh Anh.
When Quynh Anh was 13 years old, her father persuaded her to compete in the TV singing competition “For Glory,” held by Belgium’s RTBF Television. Upon winning the competition, she met her manager, who introduced Quynh Anh to her producer. The producer made possible Quynh Anh’s duet “J’espère” with French-hit singer Marc Lavoine. With “J’espère,” Quynh Anh followed Lavoine on tour to France, Switzerland and Belgium. In 2002 she signed a contract with Rapas Centre, a French-branch of Universal.

Quynh Anh reached international popularity in 2006 with her French song “Bonjour Vietnam,” composed by Lavoine and co-written by Lavoine and Yvan Coriat, when it accidentally appeared on the Internet. It is stated that the people of Vietnam were especially moved by the lyrics and by the ethnic- and cultural-yearning of foreign-born Vietnamese.
Due to its popularity, “Bonjour Vietnam” was translated into English by Guy Balbaert and is called “Hello Vietnam.” The English version is also accompanied with a draft-music video In May 2008, Quynh Anh sang the English version of the song in Paris by Night 92, an on-going Vietnamese language musical variety show. It is claimed that a Vietnamese version of the song will be released.

Quynh Anh will release her first solo project with her first single as the English version “Hello Vietnam.” In an interview with “Oh My News,” Domenech, manager of Rapas Centre, said that Quynh Anh will release her album “Bonjour Vietnam” that will be composed of 15 songs. The album is stated to be released in the near future.

Share/Bookmark

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Hello Viet Nam — the Best Song About Viet Nam Ever

  1. -IT IS VERY PAINFULL WHEN I HEARD A SONG “HELLO VIETNAM” .I HAVE BEEN BORN IN VIETNAM, THAT WHY MY TEAR KEEPING DROPED CAN NOT STOP.
    -I LEFT MY COUNTRY FOR 26 YEARS AGO. VERY MUCH MISSING, HOW CAN GET “QUYNH ANH” FIRST SOLO PROJECT
    “HELLO VIETNAM” AND “BONJOUR VIETNAM”

    KENNY B LIN

  2. This is a perfect song about Vietnam. It raises up my sincere feelings about the country. I like Pham Quynh Anh since she has a pure, high, and beautiful voice. Thanks a lot for your post 😀

  3. It’s beautiful song, I want my daughter perform this song at her school got talent. How can I get the music sheet of this song?

    • Hi Hoa, I don’t know where to get the sheet music. I have no sources other than Google and it doesn’t tell me. However, there are guitar tabs for chords. Then you can pic the notes on a guitar, or play on a piano, and write them down to help sing the right notes. It’s probably better that way, anyway, because sheet music often doesn’t capture the exact singing interpretation of a song. That is, the music doesn’t actually have the notes sung! Here’s one guitar tab:
      http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/p/pham_quynh_anh/hello_vietnam_crd.htm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.