Just reupped this Bodega Pop exclusive album here. I've long wanted to put together a collection of the Bodega's favorite Hoàng Oanh songs, especially since the three or four full albums I've previously posted of hers were taken down early last year. But perpetual busyness coupled with chronic exhaustion has kept me from the task -- until today. Not that I suddenly find myself free and clear, alas. No, it's just that I'm facing an inevitable, looming deadline so severe, so intractable, so humiliating if I miss it, that I just can't help but procrastinate. Lucky you! Born Huỳnh Kim Chi in 1950 in Mỹ Tho, about 45 miles southwest of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Hoàng Oanh is considered by many contemporary Vietnamese singers to be a primary influence. No doubt in part because she was at the helm of her own career decades after most would have given up, compiling, editing and distributing her classic recordings from an address in Fountain Valley, Calif. A couple of things about the title of this particular BP-exclusive album. First, it might be a stretch to call her a "Saigon Siren"; for, other than her proximity to the cultural capital, Oanh was always considered more country simple than urban sophisticated -- at least, according to a fellow writer of mine from Vietnam. Another stretch: I'm not sure about those dates: 1960-1975. I have songs on a couple of CDs that are attributed as far back as 1964, when the singer presumably was 14, but no one song from 1960 when she was 10 or 11 ... all I have to go on for that, is this:
That's from one of her self-compiled-and-distributed albums, so I'm guessing she would know the dates. (And, no, Nhạc Yêu Cầu does not mean "Songs Other People Sang First"; it means something more like "Song Requests" -- at least, to the extent we can believe Google Translate. Unless of course it does mean "Songs Other People Sang First," in which case, mystery solved.) Did she really begin her career as a pre-teen? She wouldn't be the first female vocalist to have done so, of course; I simply find it remarkable, given how mature her voice sounds throughout all of the recordings I have. Does it matter? I suppose not. What matters -- to me, at least -- is that, of all of the musicologists, ethno- and otherwise, we have taking up space at colleges and universities across the country on any given day, not a single one of them has seen fit to trek out to southern California and interview this living legend. (To say nothing of the dozen or so other exiled Vietnamese singers living near and around Oanh's home and offices.) There's a book just waiting to happen. Maybe not a bestseller. But, presumably, a potentially awesome read.