My Linh – Chat Voi Mozart

With an experimental project that takes two years of sweats, hard work and dedication to complete, My Linh drops classical 101 on the young listeners. Chat Voi (With) Mozart attempts to bridge the gap between popular and “unpopular” music. Gigging hand-in-hand with Duong Thu (who is responsible for all the Vietnamese lyrics on the album), Anh Quan and Huy Tuan, My Linh hopes to bring the aesthetics of classical form to the mainstream. To accomplish their goal, these four musicians have to make the classic tunes easy to listen, and they do so by the blending of pop, hip-hop, jazz and funk grooves.

Passing right through the lame-rapping intro, we’re presented with rejuvenating versions of Bach’s “Ave Maria” and Edward Elgar’s “Salute D’amour (“Gio va La Cay”) where slinky songbird My Linh releases exotic classical aura over Anh Quan’s gorgeous arrangements. However, I could mentally block out the instruments and just enjoy a cappella for a pure classical experience. Sported by Huy Tuan’s funk-pop production, she gives a sultry performance of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” (“Ngay Xa Anh”) through her sweet, romantic and undoubtedly sensuous voice. In addition, I can’t get enough of that funkdafied flavor from Manh Dung’s terno.

With the assisting of Khanh Linh’s sensational soprano vocals, My Linh reinvigorates Vivaldi’s “Four Season” (“Mua Dong”). Together, the dual Linh unleashed musical spells that filled with everlasting imagination. Coolest piece is the bossa nova’s transformation of Shumann’s “Traumerei” (“Nhung Ngay Mong Mo”) produced by Son Thach. Huy Tuan’s flute hangs on My Linh’s voice like cloud while Quyen Thien Dac’s saxophone gives the break an exquisite vibe. Saint Saens’s “The Carnival of the Animals” (“Ve Day Thien Nga”) is another pop-jazz inspired production with luscious sax sound.

Chat Voi Mozart is based on western compositions, instruments, and styles, yet the distinction is in the lyrical content. Duong Thu has done an exceptional job of keeping the words true to Vietnamese tradition. His lyrics carry Vietnamese images, colors and poetries. Naturally, he gets his inspiration from natures; therefore, his writing reflects those elements including sky, sunshine, wind and spring.

I enjoy the work not because of its easy-listening approach, but its creative fusion, which has enlivened the ancient tunes. I admire My Linh’s voice, but it is still not strong enough (she gasps for air on most of the tracks) to deliver classical high notes. Yet, what she has — clear diction, emotional expression, and dexterous reflection — more than made up for her slightly breathy vocals. With spellbound lyrics, hypnotic vocals and persuasive productions, Chat Voi Mozart could well be paving the path for classical to enter Vietnamese popular music just like jazz, r&b and hip-hop (I am not so sure about hip-hop though).