VietNamNet Bridge – Over the last 10 years, Tran Phuong Hoa, a Vietnamese teacher, has instilled a lasting love of traditional music in generations of Vietnamese origin in Germany.
Hoa currently runs an instrumental class at the Schostakowitsch music school in Berlin. Every weekend, around 70 learners attend the class to practice a variety of traditional Vietnamese instruments.
This is a unique course attracting both young and old from all social classes. Most children are of the second and third generations of Vietnamese origin and they speak only a little Vietnamese.
Adult learners are mainly retired people, office workers, fruit and vegetable peddlers, booksellers, newsvendors and shop assistants.
62-year-old Giap Thi Tho, a bookseller, is a devoted member of the group. She has taken an underground train to the class for the past three years to learn how to play “Dan Tranh” (a Vietnamese16-string zither).
After retiring, she moved to Berlin to live with her husband and children and decided to follow a “Dan Tranh” course in her free time.
“For the elderly like us, playing the “Dan Tranh” brings joy and relaxation. It also helps ease a feeling of nostalgia. Sometimes we give a performance for Vietnamese residents and the local Germans here,” Tho said.
Another retired couple, Nguyen Ky Son – Pham Thanh Ha have been playing the “Dan Bau” (monochord) and the “Dan Tranh” at the class for more than three years. They can now play traditional pieces such as “Luu Thuy - Kim Tien”, “Nguoi o dung ve” and “Que huong” beautifully.
“We were not confident to attend the class at the beginning, but we received great assistance and assurance from our teacher Hoa,” Son confided. “The most important thing is that we come, meet and share experience with each other.”
Tran Phuong Hoa, who graduated from the Vietnam National Academy of Music and taught at the Hanoi Children’s Cultural Palace, has gone to great lengths to maintain the class.
Hoa recalled although her family have lived in Germany for nearly 20 years, her passion for traditional music remains strong. She planned to teach traditional Vietnamese music in Germany and discussed the idea with her husband.
“At first, I visited Vietnamese families to work as a private tutor, but I later felt it was not effective. I decided to apply to teach at the Schostakowitsch music school in the hope more Vietnamese people would have the chance to learn the traditional music.”
“I persuaded the school’s management to include the traditional Vietnamese music in their curriculum, and beyond my expectations they accepted my proposal. In April 2007 Vietnamese music became one of the school’s subjects”
“Germany has an exceptional music heritage and it is difficult for it to accept teaching music of another country in its school.”
Hoa said she has run several classes at a number of schools in Berlin for Vietnamese people. Besides musica classes, she has also taught Vietnamese language to help children of the second and third generations to speak their mother tongue and, more importantly to preserve traditional culture.
Surmounting difficulty at the beginning, Hoa’s classes are now equipped with modern facilities, and they attract hundreds of Vietnamese and German learners alike every year.
Hoa said she is happy because many of her students want to play traditional music as a professional career and hand it down to future generations.
“We sometimes receive invitations for performance from Vietnamese associations and even the government of Berlin. It is an excellent opportunity for us to promote traditional Vietnamese music among local and other foreign communities in Germany,” Hoa said.
In the future she plans to open more similar classes for young Vietnamese people to deepen their understanding of their roots, language and music, considering this a way of preserving Vietnamese culture in Germany.