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Thai Thanh, One of Vietnam’s Most Iconic Songstresses, Passes Away at 86

Considered “the voice that echoes through time,” Thai Thanh is an unforgettable legend in Vietnam’s music history.

In the afternoon of March 17, it was reported that Thai Thanh had passed away at her home in Orange County, southern California, Tuoi Tre reports. Back in 2000, Thai Thanh had a stroke, and her health had been degrading in recent years.

Born in 1934 in Bach Mai, Hanoi, Thai Thanh was not a classically trained singer. She learned how to sing from northern Vietnamese folk music, and later from French music books. This particular background gives Thai Thanh’s vocal style a unique resemblance to both folk singing techniques such as quan họ, chầu văn and chèo, and western opera singing.

Thanh started her singing career in her teenage years. She was in a family-based band called Thang Long in 1949, and its members include her sister, Pham Thi Quang Thai (under the stage name Thai Hang), her brothers Pham Dinh Chuong (under the stage name Hoai Bac, who later became a famous songwriter) and Pham Dinh Viem (stage name Hoai Trung), and Khanh Ngoc, Chuong’s wife at the time. The band performed at Viet Minh bases with songs mostly written by Thanh’s brother, Pham Dinh Chuong, and Pham Duy, the country’s most prolific songwriter and Thai Hang’s husband.

In 1951, the family moved to Saigon, and it was during this era that Thanh claimed her stage name Thai Thanh (her real name is Pham Thi Bang Thanh). Her special voice was the perfect channel for Pham Duy’s songwriting, which was influenced by Vietnamese folk music, epic poetry and French music.

It was during this time that Thai Thanh rose to fame, and came to be considered the most famous diva in Vietnam at the time. Her voice was associated with several songs composed by Pham Duy, such as 'Ngay Xua Hoang Thi,' 'Nua Hon Thuong Dau,' 'Nu Tam Xuan,' 'Tra Lai Em Yeu' and 'Dong Song Xanh' (a Vietnamese rendition of Johann Strauss II’s ‘The Blue Danube’).

Although Thai Thanh is sadly no longer with us, the resonance of her voice will stay with us for years to come. 

Thai Thanh performing 'Ngay Xua Hoang Thi' in 1986.

[Photo via thuloc]

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