Kaleidoscope (07-07-2013)

by Thu Anh

‘Village of Widows’ still in search of brighter future

Hit repeatedly by some of the worst typhoons to hit the country, the fishing village of Ngu Loc in Thanh Hoa Province has had to endure great suffering that continues to this day.

More than 200 fishermen from the village died at sea in 1997. Their widows and children live in impoverished conditions in small huts. They work alongside men every day for their living.

People in Thanh Hoa call Ngu Loc “the Village of Widows”.

Tran Van On, 37, the last surviving male in his family, told a local newspaper: “I began working as an adult when I was 14. I lost my childhood because I lost my father.”

On’s father and two older brothers disappeared without a trace during a typhoon in 1996. He left school and since worked hard to help his mother and sisters.

“I felt terrible when I looked at my mother’s face,” he recalls. “Her face was always wet with tears during the first years of our loss.

“She is alive now, but without a soul.”

His mother is not alone. Many widows share the same sad past and troubled present. Some moved to the city in search of a better life, but returned shortly afterwards, having found the city full of homeless people too.

“After my husband’s death in a typhoon in 2000, my four children and I travelled to HCM City and joined hundreds of boat families on Nhieu Loc Canal,” said 38-year-old widow Le Thi Lam.

They returned to their village last year because they wanted their own house – no matter how small and basic it was.

“Our house is a tent but we still have a roof over our heads. It’s important for my children,” said Lam.

Bui Thi Hien, chairwoman of the Ngu Loc’s Women’s Union, said the provincial government has spent several hundreds of millions of dong to help Ngu Loc families in the wake of typhoons.

“But to help these widows and their children, we must provide suitable employment instead of just giving money,” she said.

Many bereaved women do not like their home to be called the “Village of Widows”.

“We can’t forget our loss, but we have to think about making a new life,” Lam said.

Talented composer sings praises of his homeland

Ha Noi-based composer Nguyen Cuong, a self-proclaimed son of Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands), has created more than 60 songs praising the region.

In 1964, he visited the area and fell in love with it. He then decided to work for the Tay Nguyen Art Troupe for two years, living as a local with the ethnic E De, Ba Na and M’Nong people.

He says he gained “new and valuable things” from the Central Highlands people who have music, singing and dancing in their hearts and souls. He improved his composing skills and “learnt to be free”.

His first song about Tay Nguyen was Nhip Chieng Buon Ko Siar (The Gong Rhythm of Ko Siar Village). The rhythmic song achieved great popularity for Cuong.

Cuong’s songs take his fans to a mountainous paradise full of wild animals, waterfalls, towering trees and springs, not to mention ethnic minority youth working and singing in coffee farms and corn fields near the mountains.

“I feel deeply the wind and sunshine of Central Highlands. The land still makes me heady even though I’m quite familiar with it now,” said the 70-year-old composer.

Audiences have been won over by his pop-rock songs about the highlands, like Con Thuong Nhau Thi Ve Buon Ma Thuot (If We Still Love With Each Other, Please Return To Buon Ma Thuot) and Em Muon Song Ben Anh Tron Doi (I Want To Share Life With You Forever).

Music critics have appreciated the fact that many of Cuong’s songs are based on folk songs of ethnic minority groups.

“He understands our people’s lifestyle. No one can compose or sing well about the highlands if they think of money and glory,” says singer Siu Black, who belongs to the Ba Na ethnic group.

It is a symbiotic relationship. Cuong says he feels great creative power when “I breathe, eat and drink in the highlands.” — VNS

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