A young generation passionate about rap and communicating through music has produced rap works about history. With such characteristics as unrestrained lyrics and melodies, those compositions are not only appealing to young people but also fit the rhythm with the content, making history easy to understand and remember.
Rapping about history
Posted on Youtube on October 25, the rap song “Nam Quoc Son Ha” (Mountains and Rivers of the Southern Country), performed by singers Erik and Phuong My Chi in the show “The Heroes”, topped the music trending category with 1.8 million views after five days (currently up to 5.7 million views).
An extract from the song, posted on TikTok by Phuong My Chi, went viral with over 10 million views, creating a fever on this platform.
Written by DTap, Hanh Or and RTee with the support of producer Ninja Z, and inspired by the ancient poem “Nam Quoc Son Ha”, the song’s melody is vibrant, combined with eye-catching choreography.
|The outstanding rap song of “Nam Quoc Son Ha” was performed by singers Erik and Phuong My Chi in the show titled “The Heroes” on VTV. Photo: Jenna Duong
Phuong My Chi creates a highlight for the performance with the spirited opening and the singing of the poem “Nam Quoc Son Ha”. Meanwhile, Erik’s rap part recalls the tradition of anti-foreign aggression and relates to the fight against Covid-19:
“A militiaman is shipping goods (free shipping)
On his shoulders is a red flag with a yellow star (go ahead)
A sanitation worker is sweeping garbage (all day)
A doctor keeps looking haggard (all night)
Some people share every bite (with hunger)
Some people share every pill (in sickness)
Silently, without a grumble (for what)
Against the invisible enemy, we move forward (let’s go)”.
There have been nearly 8,000 comments on this new song on Youtube, most of which are compliments for the creativity of the young people who have integrated historical elements into music to express the national pride.
|Young singer Phuong My Chi showcased her excellent voice on the VTV’s “The Heroes” show. Photo: Jenna Duong
Agreed with most of the online comments, Lam Phong a first-year student from Cau Giay District, Hanoi said that he listens to the song over and over again without getting bored.
Account Bao Thien (2000) commented: “The beat of the song is both heroic and imbued with the country identity, while the lyrics are extremely meaningful. “Nam Quoc Son Ha” not only moves listeners but also gives them the feeling of being in a heroic atmosphere at the climax, contributing to spreading the national pride”.
“Phuong My Chi’s voice is really high-pitched and sends shivers down my spine, while Erik has improved his nasal sounds and raps clearly. On top of that, the dancers are all excellent,” he told The Hanoi Times.
Accolades aside, this musical work has also received some criticism that the historical narrative through music is still “deafening” and “spoils the solemnity” of the poem that is considered Vietnam’s first declaration of independence.
“Nam Quoc Son Ha” is a seven-word four-line poem. There has been a legend that the poem was written and recited by the famous general Ly Thuong Kiet (1019-1105) in order to raise the morale of Dai Viet soldiers in the second war against the Chinese Song army (1075).
|The Let Mi Tell You song performed by singer Hoang Thuy Linh/ Photo: Jenna Duong
On the opposing views, the production team thanked the audience for their comments, saying that they wished to produce a composition that could convey the views and thoughts of Vietnamese people while being familiar with and easy for the generation Z who were born between 1997 and 2012 to listen and feel.
The direction is in line with the times
Recently, there have been a number of musical works that combine cultural-historical elements or traditional values (from musical materials to the song content) with fresh and trendy forms of expression: Let Mi Tell You inspired by the famous short story “The A Phu Couple” by writer To Hoai (1920-2014); Dear, Please Stay motivated by the Vietnamese fairy tale of Tam Cam; No More Love and Memories inspirited by the “Chi Pheo” literature work by Nam Cao (1915-1951); The Floating Cake inspired by a poem of “the Queen of Nom Poetry” Ho Xuan Huong (1772–1822), among others. These compositions have attracted the audience as well as prompted them to learn more about the original stories.
According to Vietnamese renowned musician Ho Hoai Anh, the way artists view cultural values, people, and especially history varies overtimes.
|The song No More Love and Memories by Duc Phuc was inspirited by the “Chi Pheo” literature work by Nam Cao. Photo: Jenna Duong
“Nowadays, the fact that the youth like Western music, Korean music, or such genres as rap, hip-hop, among others, is understandable. However, despite adopting many genres of music, the core values and historical elements always flow silently in the inner world of Vietnamese people,” he told The Hanoi Times.
Regarding the mixed reactions surrounding musical works inspired by history and culture, he continued: “Young people should make bold moves; if they make mistakes, they can correct them. For artists, having to pay attention to constraints will prevent them from creating art”.
On the other hand, musicians like Anh emphasized that creativity in art is worth encouraging, and everyone has their own ways of showing their patriotism. When young people find a way to convey history and patriotism through music, they are contributing to preserving the tradition.