Meritorious Artist Quyen Van Minh: I’m still passionately in love with jazz
NDO – After more than five decades developing a strong attachment to music, Meritorious Artist - saxophonist Quyen Van Minh admitted that he was still passionately in love with jazz. In an interview granted to Nhan Dan Weekly, he recalled his first days discovering jazz music as well as his hope to bring Vietnamese jazz music to the world.
Question: People have said that you first learnt music through the guitar. Why did you then choose saxophone for your music career?
Meritorious Artist Quyen Van Minh: I started learning music at the age of 13 on the guitar. However, my mother wanted me to play the saxophone. She had a beautiful voice, but she refused to follow a professional arts career in order to take care for her four children
My mother passed away a long time ago. Every effort I made and every achievement is motivated by her and dedicated to her. Anytime in my life when I encounter difficulties or I am in the worst mood, I think of my mother and try to overcome that negative situation.
How did you develop your passion for jazz music?
I learnt almost all of my saxophone techniques by myself. I listened to the radio and accidentally listened to jazz music. At that time I had no idea that it was jazz music, I just felt that the instrumentalists were playing incredibly. I swore to myself that I would get good at this genre of music. When an acquaintance of my family heard me playing, he showed me a classical music vinyl featuring the word “jazz” on its cover. I came to his house and play along to the songs on the vinyl, but despite struggling all day, I could only play one song on the list.
It wasn’t until 1976, during my tour to Ho Chi Minh City, that I was able to buy a jazz music vinyl and a radio with a total cost of VND10. I protected them carefully and I was even afraid of having someone borrow the treasures.
With the hope of promoting jazz music, you established Binh Minh Jazz Club. Can you tell us about the establishment and development of the club?
When I visited a number of jazz clubs during a show tour to Paris, I told myself that it was necessary to have such a jazz club in Vietnam where artists could show their talent.
In 1997, when I was awarded the Meritorious Artist title, I planned to stage a concert to celebrate this special occasion. But then I thought that with the money, it would be better to establish a jazz club.
However, things didn’t turn out as I had planned. My jazz club closed after just three months of being open and my VND300 million investment in the club, which was a huge amount of money for me at that time, was gone.
During Tet (lunar New Year festival) that year, I was so upset that I just stayed at home and wondered how it could’ve happened. But I didn’t give up on my dream. I searched for a new venue for the club. Since its establishment, the club’s location has changed six times and now it is hosted at 1 Trang Tien Street, Hoan Kiem district.
Many times I have felt very discouraged, but I never quit. I think that is life, you have to learn to overcome difficulties. The difficulties never affect my love for jazz. I’m still passionately in love with jazz.
You have also made great efforts to develop a younger generation of jazz artists in Vietnam. Have your efforts been rewarded?
Over the past two decades, I and Binh Minh Jazz Club in general have nurtured and developed a younger generation of jazz artists, including talented young saxophonists including Tue Anh (10 years old), Bao Lam (12 years old), and Minh Phu (14 years old).
However, Vietnamese jazz artists must try harder to establish their own class. Whenever I perform abroad I always bring my jazz compositions, which are blended with traditional Vietnamese culture, to the stage. Thus, I hope that young artists will reach audiences beyond this country and perform their own compositions.
HOURS OF OPERATION
Cafe & Restaurant
Snacks served from 4 until closing
Priviate parties can be arranged for extended hours of live music and meal services.