Teacher and wholehearted love for Hawaiian guitar

The lap steel guitar, or Hawaiian guitar, was adopted in Vietnam in the 1930s. However, the guitar has been faded into oblivion in the last four decades, and its sound has been hardly ever heard. Having a consuming passion for this musical instrument, Bui Bach Lien – an aged teacher in Hanoi has sought many ways to revive the sound of the guitar in the busy city life.


The 79 year-old teacher, a student of late renowned musician Doan Chuan, is called the “fire keeper” for Hawaiian guitar in Vietnam. Lien is preserving ten lap steel guitars in her houses, considering them as invaluable assets.

Lien set up the “Hawaiian Night in Hanoi” club with ten members in 1992 after seeing the guitar’s sound may slip into obscurity. After the club was put into operation in five years, Lien had serious accidents that resulted in a traumatic brain injury and bone brokerage. At the time she had to struggle against the severe pains, she felt she loved the life and the guitar’s sound more than ever before.

She then made contact with members of the club, and invested all of her money in Hawaiian guitars and other musical instruments for the club. She said for an artist like her, music could be more precious than her life, and she could not live without music.

In nearly 30 years, around 150 events have taken place in the “Hawaiian Night in Hanoi” club, helping Lien spread the values and beauty of the Hawaiian guitar’s sound while inspiring younger generations of a positive and optimistic life.

Impressed by the special sound of the guitar and the kind-hearted artist while attending a musical event in January, Pham Thi Minh Tuong, an accountant at a military organisation, decided to learn how to play the guitar from Lien.

Despite her old age, Lien has never made her guitar sound take a break. She hopes that music schools will pay attention to providing Hawaiian guitar lessons, and she stands ready to teach those who want to learn as well as support those who need help.

With lifelong passion for the Hawaiian guitar, Lien has clung to the hope that the guitar will be more popular in Vietnam./.