Life Life

28/04/2020 - 08:23

Staying home and missing Trinh’s songs

1.  April 1st, 2020 is Trinh Cong Son’s 19th death anniversary. Though he left the “temporary world” a long time ago, his music has no ending. People sing his songs about love and human fate wherever and whenever.

Trinh Cong Son’s music at Hue Festival 2016. Photo: TL

The year 2020 marked the comeback of Trinh Cong Son’s music with the song “What Do We See Tonight,” a greatest hit of his, sung by Hoang Trang. The singer surprised people with her rustic and clear voice and natural and emotional performance.

The question remained after her performance is that the lyrics were not completely exact compared with the original. But if we compare them with the version by Khanh Ly, the lyrics are not wrong. Unlike Trinh Cong Son's love songs, very few of his "anti-war" songs have been published in print so far.

Singers and people who sing his “anti-war” songs therefore often learn the lyrics from Khanh Ly’s version. So did Hoang Trang. Despite that problem, Hoang Trang was a phenomenon, "another new singer who sings Trinh Cong Son.” Her performance has received millions of likes and hundreds of thousands of shares on Facebook.

Recently, the website "Charming Vietnam" ( has announced that the manuscript by hand of “What Do We See Tonigh” by Trinh Cong Son has been found. This finding is very significant because one can see the original lyrics which reveal exactly his initial thoughts and feelings. 

2.  19 years have passed since the day he left the “temporary world” (April 1, 2001-April 1, 2020), Trinh Cong Son's music can still be heard everywhere, reminding us of many things. During the days of COVID-19, while people are reminding one another to “stay where they are”, Trinh Cong Son’s fans come up with the question what Trinh Cong Son had said about lying and sitting and cite “Ve trong pho xua toi nam...” (“I come back to my old city to lie down...”)

In Buddhism, walking, standing, lying, and sitting all can be meditation. Trinh Cong Son's music is very much affected by Buddhism. “We must know how to live our lives to the fullest in every moment of reality from eating, drinking, walking, standing, lying and sitting,” said he himself. 

Trinh Cong Son’s songs about human fate in front of death and decay imply the limitation of life. It is sitting in mediation to ponder about our behavior toward the universe: “Nhat nguyet tren cao/ Ta ngoi duoi thap/ Mot dong trong veo/ Sao long con duc” (“The sun and the moon above/ We sit below/ A clear river/ Why we are still opaque”)(Cung se chim troi (Floating.))

How about lying? In “How Many Days Left,” he headed toward the eternity: “Dem ta nam nghe tieng tram nam/ Goi thi tham, goi thi tham, goi thi tham...” (“At night we lie listening to the sounds of one hundred years/ Whispering, whispering, whispering...”)

In Trinh's music, sometimes "sitting still" is to separate oneself from the crowd like a choice for solitary freedom: “Nhieu khi da vui cuoi/ Nhieu khi dung rieng ngoai/ Nhieu khi muon di ve con pho xa/ Nhieu khi muon quay ve/ Ngoi yen duoi mai nha” (“Sometimes I have fun / Sometimes I stand outside / Sometimes I want to go somewhere far away/ Sometimes I want to return/ To sit still at home”) (Loi thien thu goi (Call of Eternity).) To realize “Thay doi minh la nhung quan khong/ Ban im hoi ben ghe ngoi” (“My life is like empty shops/ Quiet tables by chairs” (Hearing the Decay.)

When "lying" and "sitting", he always heard the sound of the immense fate inflicted on man and echoes of loneliness.

To some extent, loneliness is the spiritual cross that the true artist must carry throughout his life. “Chieu chu nhat buon/ nam trong can gac diu hiu/ Oi tieng hat xanh xao cua mot buoi chieu...” (“On a sad Sunday afternoon/ Lying in the gloomy attic / Oh the pale singing of an afternoon...")

“Lying" and "sitting" sometimes imply the limitation of life, about death in impermanence. One is not afraid of, but ready to receive it, or sometimes even expects it. “Hon da lan ben doi/ Hon da rot xuong canh mai/ Rung canh hoa mai gay/ Chim choc hot tieng qua doi/ Nguoi om lay muon loai/ Nam trong tieng bi ai” ("The stone is rolling on the hillside/ The stone falls on the apricot branch/ The flower sheds its thin petals/ Birds sing their parting song/ Man embraces all species/ Lying in misery” (Random.)

"Sitting" is also a posture that is mentioned a lot by Trinh Cong Son when writing about love in the world. One is happy because he always has his lover in him: “Ta thay em dang ngoi khoc khi rung chieu do mua...” (“I saw you were sitting crying when it rained in the afternoon forest” (The Old Forest Has Been Closed.) 

How happy I am to see myself in you: “Tu em toi da dap boi/ Co toi trong dang em ngoi truoc san” (“I’m compensated by you/ There is me in the way you sit in the yard” (Doa hoa vo thuong (Flower of Impermanence).)

“Flower of Permanence” is a great epic song about the stages of a love affair_the joy when love begins and then an inevitable sad ending.

Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong said Trinh Cong Son's love songs are metaphysical assertions: the parting and the breaking up of love affairs are not obstacles in life that is full of joys.

Those songs are "prayers by the abyss." "Sitting" in "Since then I sit still" is to see the horizon in the distance, like “sitting” to pray or “lying” to think about life: “ Nguoi ngoi xuong xin mua day/ Tren hai tay con dau dai/ Nguoi nam xuong nghe tieng ru/ Cuoc doi do co bao lau ma hung ho.” (“Please sit down to beg for the full rain/ With the lengthened pain in hands/ Lie down to listen to the lullaby/ Life is too short to neglect”) (Pink Rain)

When we are not indifferent, we are aware of our own existence and realize the world is suffering from the terrible fever of COVID-19. It is enjoyable still to isolate oneself from the world, to stay home and sing Trinh Cong Son with a guitar.

“There is only fate and love in this life. Fate is finite while love is infinite. We should find a way to nourish love so that love can save our fate on the cross of life.” The way we nurture love and love the world at the moment is to think about “staying home ".