Ha Hai: A Musician Who Creates Tickets to Childhood

Despite the fact that most of the children’s songs of musician Ha Hai were composed several decades ago, they are still being performed for young audiences.Older audiences say the melodies are like “A ticket to their childhood”.

Born in 1951 in Hanoi, Ha Hai is among the first generation of children’s songwriters in Vietnam besides Pham Tuyen, Huy Du, Hoang Van and Phong Nha.

Ha Hai worked as a music teacher in the 1970s in Hanoi’s My Dinh II Secondary School, so he had been working with kids daily and he said it was this time that inspired him to write songs for children.

He said, “Like any genre, children’s music has its luminaries, and spending some time getting acquainted with their work can inspire you in your own endeavors”.

Some popular songs of “The Cheering Star”, “Hello Summertime”
and “The Greetings” composed by Ha Ha. Photo: Tran ThanhGiang

Many of Ha Hai’s songs were selectedfor the printed book entitled “Songs for Pre-school”.Photo: Tran ThanhGiang

Ha Hai with young performers.Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Ha Hai at the music night to commemorate musician Trinh Cong Son. Photo: File

Children’s songs composed by Ha Hai are often designed to provide an entertaining means of teaching children about their culture, other cultures, good behavior, facts and skills.

“Children who love small jobs such as planting a tree, raising a pet or helping their parents dothe daily chores would like to describe their efforts by singing a song,” said Ha Hai.“And we can say that it is also the characteristic of Vietnamese children,” he added.

Ha Hai said he “really” began exploring age-desegregated music after the birth of his daughter in 1980, and soon after he decided to abandon a pop music career and pursue family music full time.

A number of his successful songs came out of this period including “The Swimming Goldfish”, “Why Birds Keep Singing”, “The Greetings”, “Uncle Ho’s Stream of Fishes”.

Notably, the song “Flowers to Ho Chi Minh”, which was composed in 1981, was chosen in 1999 as one of Vietnam’s best songs for children of the 20th century. The selection was carried out by a national council including Vietnam Television (VTV), Voice of Vietnam (VOV) and Vietnam’s Songwriters Association.

Ha Hai’s working space at his home.Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

The children’s songwriter and his wife.Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

He spends his spare time taking care of ornamental trees.Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Ha Hai was among the examiners at a review session for the upcoming music event.Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Ha Hai contributes to a performance at the “The Colour of Time” art club.

Ha Hai is talking with singer Quang Le. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

However, Ha Hai said the song that impressed him most is “Uncle Ho’s stream of fishes”, which was completed and aired on the VOV on the occasion of Ho Chi Minh’s 89th birthday, May 19, 1979.

“In addition, many senior songwriters including Phong Nha, Hoang Ha, MongLan helped me to complete this song, so it could be said that the song was a perfect result of traditional inheritance from generations of songwriters,” Ha Hai shared.
Despite being nearly 70 years old, Ha Hai is still active in many children’s movements and events as he keeps working as producer and director for many children’s music events in Hanoi.

Born in 1951 in Hanoi’s Thuong Tin district, songwriter Ha Hai studied at Hanoi National University of Education from 1968 to 1971. After graduation, he worked as a music teacher at My Dinh secondary school from 1972 to 1988 before he became vice head of Culture and Art Unit under Hanoi’s Communist Party Propaganda Department.

Story: Thao Vy – Photos: Tran Thanh Giang