In September 2008, I went to Minneapolis to do a reading with a couple of others in the Flarflist Collective at the Walker. The day after the reading, we wound up on a street that housed nothing but Vietnamese restaurants and video/CD stores.
After a great lunch, I popped into the video place next to the restaurant and combed the stacks as quickly as I could, finding, among other things, this fabulous collection of songs Hoàng Oanh recorded from 1960-1975. Of the 20-30 Vietnamese CDs I have, this is one of my all-time favorites, largely owing to Hoàng Oanh's voice, which never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. She's amazing. I think, although I'm not certain of this, that she's still alive and living in southern California.
When Linh Dinh stayed with me last year during a neo-benshi festival that Brandon Downing curated, I pulled out my stash of Vietnamese CDs, begging him to please please please contextualize some of it for me. Which, graciously, he did.
Apparently, Hoàng Oanh was extremely popular in Vietnam, but largely outside of Saigon, where she was considered a bit unsophisticated or "country." I was very surprised by this, but assume it's true and that sophistication, like humor, doesn't always travel well from culture to culture.
Soon after I moved to New York City in 1997 I began to notice that bodegas run by people from around the world sometimes stocked CDs and DVDs of music and film from the countries they had come from.
The music I've collected from these bodegas can almost never be found in the "World Music" sections of the few remaining places to buy CDs in the U.S.; nor, for that matter on iTunes (or cheapo MP3 sites like Soundike).
If you are an artist or publisher and do not want your music here, just let me know and I'll remove it.
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