A foreign voice singing local songs

American Kyo York came to Vietnam for the first time as a tourist in 2007. When he returned in 2009, he worked in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang as a volunteer, teaching English to underprivileged children.

He had a life-changing experience during that time, as he met and fell in love with a Vietnamese woman. It encouraged him to study the Vietnamese language and culture, and he also learned how to sing many Vietnamese songs. The novelty of hearing a foreign singer crooning local tunes has brought him fame. Though his love story ended, his love for the country and Vietnamese music will never die. 

A foreign voice singing local songs
PERFORMER: Singer Kyo York is loved for his sweet voice and renditions of Vietnamese folk songs. Photo courtesy of the artist

How did COVID-19 affect your life?

Not just me but also many artists struggled during the pandemic. The entertainment industry was the first to close and the last to reopen. It was sad, but couldn’t be helped.

Beyond losing our earnings, we were also affected psychologically. We had to cancel plans and projects that had been carefully prepared.

I personally was fortunate to release two songs. The first is a cover of the Vietnamese folk song Trống Cơm (Cylindrical Drum), which I sing in both English and Vietnamese in an attempt to raise awareness about preventive measures to fight COVID-19.

I mixed the familiar tune with some humour and information on how the disease spreads through droplets in the air produced by coughs and sneezes, and called on people to maintain a high level of hygiene and follow social distancing measures.

It was a catchy song that included useful information and cheered people up, relieved stress, and helped people in quarantine cope with the boredom.

The other song was an English version of Ghen Covy, a viral song that appeared on HBO’s Last Week Tonight.

I am happy to have helped introduce Vietnamese music and culture to the world. Both these songs are topical and have a melody that everyone loves.

And what about during social distancing?

In the first period of social distancing I gained a lot of weight, but then in the second one I made an effort to stay in shape. Though I wasn’t able to perform, I still worked hard on my voice and recorded some songs.

I feel fortunate to be living in Vietnam, as the pandemic was controlled very well here. Of course, everyone has to remain vigilant and follow the guidance from the Ministry of Health.

Were you sad not being able to visit your family in America last Christmas?

I used to visit my family often whenever I had a chance to sing for the Vietnamese community in America. I had to cancel a lot of shows overseas last year. It’s now been a long time since I went home.

Sadly, my father caught COVID-19 last year. Though he has recovered, he is much weaker. He also suffers from dementia.

Meanwhile, my brother’s wife gave birth to a baby boy. I’ve still only met my new nephew on Facetime. I’m concerned about my loved ones and can’t wait to go home. I’ll be one of the first to buy a ticket to the US when international flights reopen.

You will perform at the international concert “The World Sings About Mother” on May 9. What does it mean to you?

It is a meaningful programme that connects artists from 14 countries. People often hear me sing in Vietnamese, but at this concert I will sing in English, my native language. My song is Mama Tried, which is already familiar to Vietnamese audiences.

Have you told your mother about this song?

Yes. Mum and I are very close. She is an artist, and perhaps I inherited her love of art. We agree on many things. I love my mother very much.

I call her every day, and we talk about everything. If either of us encounters a problem, we work together to find a solution.

When I’m sad, I always talk to my mum and she gives me advice and helps me be positive. She taught me to always look on the bright side of life. So, when I stand on stage, I convey a positive energy to the audience.

 
A foreign voice singing local songs
AT HOME: Kyo York fell in love with Vietnam the first time he ever came here. Photo courtesy of the artist

She must be nervous with you living so far away?

My mum is my biggest fan. When I have new work or a new project, she is always the first I sing to, even though she doesn’t understand Vietnamese. She has supported me a great deal mentally. She is proud that I created a career in another country and found a degree of success, becoming a bridge between American and Vietnamese culture.

When I came to Vietnam to work as a volunteer at the age of 24, I was young and didn’t know too much about the outside world. There are times when I’m lonely and homesick, and my mother encourages me by reminding me that “you’re doing meaningful work; try hard and the good times will return”.

Artists are often sensitive and introspective, sometimes sublimated, sometimes down. Between the ups and downs, I need someone to give me balance, and that person is my mother, the most important woman in my life.

What about your father? How does he influence your personality?

My parents broke up when I was 13 years old. I lived with my father, and only saw my mum on weekends. They are civilised to each other and love their kids. They still talk and do what’s best for us.

I’m fortunate to have such a family, where everyone loves and cares for each other so much.

Do you want to love someone with the same character as your mother?

My love now is this job, singing.

As an artist, you can’t live without love, and it’s true of me. I don’t want to let people know about my girlfriend. I like to separate my work from my life. I don’t normally bring my private affairs on to the stage.

I don’t seek any role models when it comes to love. I just need someone who loves me and understands me.

As someone who knows about both Asian and Western cultures, do you think there are any differences in motherhood?

I think mothers are wonderful everywhere, because they love their children and families and make a lot of sacrifices. The only difference is how it is expressed.

In America, parents allow their children to be independent early in their lives. They may not live with their children, but their affection never diminishes.

In Vietnam, I have seen many mothers love their children so much that the care and pampering makes the kids overly-reliant on them.

Have you ever brought your mother to Vietnam?

She wanted to come but is afraid of flying and her health is also not very good. We’ve planned it many times but it’s never happened. In the future, when flights reopen, I hope she can come and see how wonderful Vietnam is.

Can you tell us about your upcoming new project?

I am working on a project to honour and commemorate the death anniversary of composer Trinh Cong Son. I love his music and Vietnamese audiences love me as a foreign singer performing his love songs. So the project is quite important for my career.

VNS

American singer releases folk song in fight against COVID-19

American singer releases folk song in fight against COVID-19

Popular American singer Kyo York has unveiled his own version of the northern folk song Trong Com, known as the Cylindrical Drum in English, in which he sings in both English and Vietnamese

Traditional artists sing out in fight against coronavirus

Traditional artists sing out in fight against coronavirus

Together with pop singers, traditional artists have also been composing songs to raise spirits and awareness in the fight against coronavirus.

 
 

Other News

.
Fried banana cakes come to the rescue
Fried banana cakes come to the rescue
YOUR VIETNAMicon  25/03/2021 

The 50-year-old Frenchman who is known simply as Fabric by Vietnamese can be said to have been rather famous in HCMC, at least in several local social media over the past few months.

Creating friendship over food on social media
Creating friendship over food on social media
YOUR VIETNAMicon  26/02/2021 

Tanya Pisarchuk, a digital marketer and amateur food reviewer, has spent more than seven years in Hanoi. That’s also how old her Facebook group Wheretoget Hanoi is, now a community of more than 16,000 members navigating Hanoi's nooks  

Early New Year festival of Cong ethnic people
Early New Year festival of Cong ethnic people
YOUR VIETNAMicon  11/12/2020 

The Cong ethnic people in the northwestern region of Vietnam celebrate their Tet (New Year) festival, locally known as Tet hoa mao ga or Cockscomb flower Tet), in the 11th lunar month, praying for a new bumper crop harvest in the new year.

Exciting wedding of Dao ethnic group in north Vietnam
Exciting wedding of Dao ethnic group in north Vietnam
YOUR VIETNAMicon  09/12/2020 

Although recent years have seen wedding ceremonies conducted by the Dao Lo Gang ethnic group in the northern province of Thai Nguyen become simplified, they still feature many aspects of the traditional ritual.

To Mon friendship ceremony of the Ba Na
To Mon friendship ceremony of the Ba Na
YOUR VIETNAMicon  06/12/2020 

The Ba Na of Vietnam’s Central Highlands celebrate many festivals each year, including a peace worship, a new rice ceremony, and To Mon – a ceremony to strengthen solidarity.

Lives of Cong ethnic people in Dien Bien
Lives of Cong ethnic people in Dien Bien
YOUR VIETNAMicon  03/12/2020 

La Cha Village in the northern mountainous province of Dien Bien's Nam Po District is home to a Cong ethnic community, one of the five ethnic minority communities in the province with 79 households and nearly 400 inhabitants.

Looms run still in homes of the Lu
Looms run still in homes of the Lu
YOUR VIETNAMicon  18/11/2020 

Lo Thi Dam is quite agile on her loom, and a piece of fabric soon takes shape that will then be dyed and embroidered in colourful thread.

Costumes of Mong people in Sa Pa
Costumes of Mong people in Sa Pa
YOUR VIETNAMicon  05/11/2020 

The Mong comprise more than half of the population of the popular resort town of Sa Pa in northern Vietnam. They belong to different Mong branches, but all wear indigo clothing.

Unique water ceremony of the Jrai people
Unique water ceremony of the Jrai people
YOUR VIETNAMicon  03/11/2020 

Dam San Music, Dancing and Singing Theatre in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai recently hosted the water source worship ceremony for Jrai ethnicity locals in Krêl Village, Krêl Commune, Duc Co District.

Oan cake reflects the spirit of the Vietnamese people
Oan cake reflects the spirit of the Vietnamese people
YOUR VIETNAMicon  31/10/2020 

Hanoi is not only famous for its traditional dishes such as pho and bun cha but also banh oan, a cake made of roasted glutinous rice flour.

Time-honoured craft of gold laminating in Kieu Ky village
Time-honoured craft of gold laminating in Kieu Ky village
YOUR VIETNAMicon  18/10/2020 

The craft of gold laminating in Kieu Ky village, Gia Lam district, Hanoi has seen around 400 years of history. 

Ukrainian DJ finds second home in Vietnam
Ukrainian DJ finds second home in Vietnam
YOUR VIETNAMicon  17/10/2020 

The Vietnamese digital music community has been impressed by the appearance and performances of a beautiful Ukrainian DJ at major domestic musical events in recent years.

H'mong ethnic group continues traditional paper-making craft
H'mong ethnic group continues traditional paper-making craft
YOUR VIETNAMicon  13/10/2020 

The unique paper-making craft of the H'mong ethnic group in Hoa Binh Province has been going strong for 300 years.

Ancestor worship, a sacred rite of the Lo Lo in Ha Giang
Ancestor worship, a sacred rite of the Lo Lo in Ha Giang
YOUR VIETNAMicon  13/10/2020 

The Lo Lo ethnic minority people live mostly in Lung Cu commune, Ha Giang province. They live harmoniously with other ethnic groups of the Dong Van stone plateau while maintaining their ancient customs and traditions.

"Weaving" scent into tea
"Weaving" scent into tea
YOUR VIETNAMicon  11/10/2020 

Vietnamese people have long maintained the tradition of enjoying flower-scented tea and the pastime has been elevated in the way Hanoians prepare the typical drink.

Gold laminating and gilding in Kieu Ky Village
Gold laminating and gilding in Kieu Ky Village
YOUR VIETNAMicon  10/10/2020 

The Kieu Ky gold laminating craft village (Gia Lam District, Hanoi) has a history of about 400 years. Through ups and downs, people still retain their traditional profession with stages that require ingenuity and sophistication.

Wedding rituals of the Bo Y
Wedding rituals of the Bo Y
YOUR VIETNAMicon  29/09/2020 

After spring dating, when cold wind begins to blow, young ethnic boys and girls in the northwest mountain region decide to get married.

Tomb house of the Co Tu
Tomb house of the Co Tu
YOUR VIETNAMicon  28/09/2020 

A tomb house built on the grave of a dead person is typical of folk belief of the Co Tu ethnic minority who live in Vietnam’s central region.

Arieu Ping, the reburial festival of the Pa Ko
Arieu Ping, the reburial festival of the Pa Ko
YOUR VIETNAMicon  19/09/2020 

For the Pa Ko ethnic people, taking care of ancestral tombs is not a family’s private affair, but the responsibility of the whole village.

Love in Pieu scarf of Thai women
Love in Pieu scarf of Thai women
YOUR VIETNAMicon  17/09/2020 

The ethnic Black Thai of Vietnam’s northwestern region value the Pieu scarf as a symbol of love and an important clothing accessory for women. All Black Thai women can weave and embroider Pieu scarves.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN