Phạm Đình Chương

Leaving Hanoi and migrating to Saigon in 1951, Phạm Đình Chương started the family band Thăng Long and chose Hoài Bắc, which means “remembering the North”, to be his stage name. This suggests that he also shared the feeling of those intellectuals and artists in the 1954’s wave of migration of Vietnam.

It’s the feeling of melancholy among those who had to part from their home in order to seek the land of freedom. This feeling can be found in a lot of song lyrics, such as Nỗi lòng người đi (A leaver’s feelings) by Anh Bằng, or Tình lỡ (Broken love) by Thanh Bình, and a great number of literary works, like Đêm giã từ Hà Nội (The night of farwelling Hanoi) by Mai Thảo, Ung thư (Cancer) by Thanh Tâm Tuyền, or Cũng đành (Let it be) by Dương Nghiễm Mậu.

Together with the gloominess over the bygone days of a peaceful and united nation, many of these works share a hankering for the reunification of the divided country, and Hội trùng dương, an epic song by Phạm Đình Chương, beautifully expresses it. Đỗ Ân Đức Trị, in his memoir Leave the land you love: love the land where you leave, translated its title to Symphony of Three Rivers, which I think is a good translation.

Hội trùng dương, or Symphony of Three Rivers

The song tells the story of the three rivers: Sông Hồng (the Red river), Sông Hương (the Perfume river) and Sông Cửu Long (the Nine Dragon river), personalized as the three sisters, representing three parts of the country.

Hội trùng dương started with the voice of the ocean:

Trùng dương, chốn đây ngàn phương
Có ba dòng sông cuốn xuôi biển Đông nhắc câu chờ mong

Về khơi sóng muôn triền tới,
nước non buồn vui đây hội trùng dương đầy vơi
Sóng muôn triền tới, sóng xô về khơi, như muôn tình mới,
vươn sức người dựng giữa đời.

In this vast ocean where thousands of streams converge
There’s a choir of three rivers singing the song of yearning
for a bittersweet festival joining waves from numerous shores
and renewing the sisterhood
Vitality will then burgeon for this life to thrive.

Then it turns to the voice of Sông Hồng:

Chiều nay nước xuôi dòng đại dương
có em tên sông Hồng dâng sóng tuôn trên nguồn.
Vẩn vơ nắng quái vươn trên phù sa
có những cô thôn mờ xa đón bầy dân đánh cá.
Ngày qua trai gái sống vui một miền,
quanh năm anh cuốc em liềm vun xới ruộng mùa lúa chiêm.

As dusk fell, on the way to the ocean,
there’s a lady called Sông Hồng devoting herself to the delta.
A faint gleam of twilight is spread over the alluvial plain
where there are distant silhouettes of the village women
picking up their fishermen.
Day after day, men and women live happily across the land,
hoeing, sowing and reaping in the rice paddy.

Trịnh Công Sơn, in Lại gần với nhau, wrote:

Đêm Sông Hương nhung nhớ
Ngày Cửu Long mơ
Mơ thấy gì
Mơ một ngày Hồng Hà góp Hội Trùng Dương

(to be continued)

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