27/05/2017 11:55 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Tri Nguyen – the Artist of “Dan Tranh”

In his performances, Tri Nguyen, a pianist and “dan tranh” (Vietnamese 16-chord zither) artist, always couples European classics with Vietnamese folk and traditional music. With the combination of Western classical music and Vietnamese folk music, his compositions are much loved by audiences in various regions.  He won the Golden Award and the most popular artist at the Global Music Arads selected by  the American audiences in 2015 which was an international acknowledgement of the musical career of this Vietnamese-French composer.
Born in Saigon, Tri Nguyen was interested in traditional music  and he attended a “dan tranh” class since he was young. After his graduation  from Saigon Music and Drama School (now the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music), he furthered his study at the Paris Music Pedagogy School with well-known professors.

With his musical instinct and special love for “dan tranh”, Tri Nguyen can play Vietnamese music on different types of Western musical instruments. The special feelings for his homeland have become a source of inspirations for his compositions on the dan tranh.

“Dan tranh” artist Tri Nguyen. Photo: Thong Hai

Tri Nguyen performing piano and “dan tranh” on the stage in Ho Chi Minh City in February 2017. Photo: Thong Hai

Tri Nguyen’s skillful hands flying on the keys. Photo: Thong Hai

Tri Nguyen flying high with the sounds of his instrument at a performance. Photo: Thong Hai

Tri Nguyen introduces the structure of “dan tranh” to audiences. Photo: Thong Hai

Tri Nguyen at a talk entitled  “A cultural journey” at Vietnam - US College, Ho Chi Minh city. Photo: Thong Hai

Tri Nguyen in a dialogue with audiences in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thong Hai

Tri Nguyen’s ‘dan tranh’ joining a piano  performance on IDECAF stage in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thong Hai

Fans taking photos with Tri Nguyen after a night performance
on IDECAF drama stage in Ho Chi Minh City, in February 2017. Photo: Thong Hai

“I want the sounds of the ‘dan tranh’ always to be the dominant sound in a Western orchestra, using the sounds of Western instruments to boost the special sounds of ‘dan tranh’ to a new level,” said Tri Nguyen.

In his work, one can hear that the sounds of “dan tranh” play different roles. Sometimes it leads a Western string orchestra, sometimes it hides in the harmony and sometimes in a duet with a violin. Tri Nguyen boldly puts into his compositions familiar Vietnamese lullabies, which are, however, expressed by new techniques but still retain the characters of traditional Vietnamese music.

Since 2014, Tri Nguyen has regularly released “dan tranh” albums, including Consonances (2014), A Journey Between Worlds (2016) and most recently Beyond Borders. His  music is warmly welcomed by world audiences.  His first album “Consonances” was given the Golden Award at the Global Music Award and another award for the best concerto album (Akademia USA).

“I am very proud that my music is welcomed by international audiences. These awards recognise that Vietnamese traditional music has travelled beyond borders, meeting the musical demands and accepted and honored by the world,” Tri Nguyen said.

Cover of Tri Nguyen’s first album “Consonances”. Photo: File

Cover of Tri Nguyen’s second album  entitled “A Journey between Worlds”. Photo: File

Cover his Tri Nguyen’s third album entitled “ Beyond Borders”. Photo: File

Able to play both traditional music and Western music,  composer Tri Nguyen wrote musical pieces
for “dan tranh” in harmony with other musical instruments in the world. Photo: Thong Hai 

Composer Pham Thuy Hoan said: “I am very happy that Tri Nguyen has endeavored to harmonise ‘dan tranh’, a national instrument, with other instruments in the world. What is worthy of honouring Tri Nguyen is that he has introduced a number of distinctive features of Vietnamese traditional music.  These include reformed drama and familiar lullabies to foreign audiences, helping them  acquaint themselves with our national music”.

Recently, Tri Nguyen spared time on his return trips to Vietnam to introduce his works to domestic audiences. Each year, he organises at least one musical night to introduce his newly released albums or compositions to audiences. Last February, Tri Nguyen played music from his album “Beyond borders” in Ho Chi Minh City. He told of his plans in the near future to introduce to the public at home his new compositions in October 2017, as, domestic audiences are the most important people to him, whom he turns his services to.

Story: Son Nghia -  Photos: Thong Hai and Files