Culture Culture

09/04/2019 - 07:57

The untold story of Da trang ca

"Da trang ca" or "Tieng hat da trang" (Song of the sand crab) is considered one of Trinh Cong Son’s famous songs, which has left many imprints on his composing career.

The late composer Trinh Cong Son. Photo: Archive

The epic was written in 1962 in Quy Nhon. After so much turmoil, researcher Nguyen Dac Xuan, a friend of the late musician Trinh Cong Son, spent a lot of time traveling to many places to revive the song that seemed to be forgotten. And in Mr. Xuan's words, "the heaven listened" and the song has returned intact, to those who love the music of the talented songwriter.

In the past, in many of their talks, researcher Nguyen Dac Xuan reminded Trinh Cong Son about archiving his works for the future generations, and further for opening a memorial space. Mr. Xuan said so because in his thoughts, his friend would become a great musician in the country. “By saying so, it meant I had prepared a lot of related materials about him. And in 2001 when he died, I started collecting even more materials related to him,” Mr. Xuan recalled.

Shortly after the death of musician Trinh Cong Son, from the United States, Dinh Cuong, a painter, wrote a book and extracted a chapter and sent it to Mr. Xuan. In that chapter, there was a mention of Trinh Cong Son and the song "Da trang ca" or "Tieng hat da trang” and it said, "That song is very good!". Dinh Cuong used to have a handwritten version of the song, but because of the poor preservation conditions, it was damaged.

Mr. Xuan felt very sad and sorry about this. When speaking to many people who lived and studied with musician Trinh Cong Son at that time in Quy Nhon, almost everyone knew that it was a masterpiece, but no one remembered all of it nor kept the music sheets. Therefore, Mr. Xuan went to Quy Nhon to search.

The cover of Duc Tuan’s single, Da trang ca, with an image of a young Trinh Cong Son. Photo: DT

“I met many people, and they said that in 1962, Quy Nhon School of Pedagogy asked Trinh Cong Son, a student at the time, to write a song to perform for the university’s concert. Immediately, Mr. Son wrote Da trang ca with 13 verses. When the song was sung during rehearsal, the organizers were showering it with compliments” Mr. Xuan recalled. Also according to the people who lived with musician Trinh Cong Son, at that time in Quy Nhon, this song was the first and most important song performed at that night’s concert at Quy Nhon School of Pedagogy on January 13, 1963 .

And so, the music concert passed and for some unclear reason, the song fell into oblivion. Mr. Xuan continued to go to Nha Trang. Here, Hue researcher found a few friends who lived and studied with Trinh Cong Son. There was one person who gave Mr. Xuan a review of the performance of the night concert that the student Trinh Cong Son led the choir. Surprised, Mr. Xuan asked “Did anyone keep Da trang ca? Does anyone still have it?” but this person shook his head.

Returning to Hue in regret, Mr. Xuan still did not intend to give up. He continued to meet with people who had studied in Quy Nhon at that time with Trinh Cong Son.

In their memory, Da truong ca was still there but to get a full version, it is almost impossible to remember all of the verses. With no other choice, Mr. Xuan planned to invite all the friends of the late musician Trinh Cong Son to his house to sing to do sound recordings.

When everything was already planned, it was also the moment the song suddenly decided to show up as if it answer the desire of the searcher. Among Hue people who studied in Quy Nhon, one person said he kept a handwritten copy of Da trang ca in An Hoa ward, Hue City. “It turns out not to be far away, but it is right in the land of the composer himself. Upon hearing the news, I immediately ask him to go to his house and take pictures of the 7 pages filled with lyrics,” Mr. Xuan emotionally recalled. 

Da trang ca consists of 13 verses and is recognized by many people as the first epic of musician Trinh Cong Son which has left a mark on his later composing career. “It is a philosophy of impermanence, expressing love, human compassion, homeland, praising peace and speaking out against wars. It can be said that all Trinh Cong Son's music comes from Da trang ca," the researcher and the musician's friend said.

Recently, through the valuable materials from the family of musician Trinh Cong Son and researcher Nguyen Dac Xuan, singer Duc Tuan recorded this song for the would-be 80th birthday of the late musician Trinh Cong Son (1939 - 2019). With the expressive voice of Duc Tuan, no matter how much the listener knows about Da trang ca, he/she will understand the ideology and message of the talented musician of Hue.