My Soul Sistah

Thu Hoai who is a’s frequent visitor and one of Philly’s finest vocalists invited me to check out her live performances in front of a small crowd around 100 people. Since I was in the nearby area yesterday, I decided to drop by and I am glad that I did. Thu Hoai is passionate about music, and her singing proved it.

She approached Nguyen Van Thuong’s “Dem Dong” with confidence, and she knew how to transform one of the most beloved ballads into a personal statement. Unlike Diem Lien who presented “Dem Dong” in Asia’s 75 Nam Am Nhac Viet Nam exactly as the composer intended it, Thu Hoai was able to incorporate subtle but individual nuances into her phrasings. There’s always a risk in breaking the composer’s original intention. A singer could either ruin or enhance the work. In her performance, Thu Hoai enhanced it.

With Phu Quang’s “Em Oi! Ha Noi Pho,” Thu Hoai’s gruff, tangy, and authoritative voice brings out the lyrics’ semimetal aesthetics: “Con duong vang ri rao con mua nho / Ai don cho ai toc xoa vai mem.” She then moved toward fitness-enhancing tunes to please the crowd since part of the show included dancing—somebody had to entertain the mack daddies. She packed the floor with Anh Bang’s “Tango Tinh” and ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All.” I am ashamed to say that I was sitting back and envying the pops getting their groove on with the chicks that are young enough to be their daughters. (“Who’s your daddy?”)

Highlight of the concert is when Thu Hoai provided listeners with an intimate experience. Supported by simple strumming guitars, she poured her heart out on Vu Thanh An’s “Tinh Khuc Thu Nhat” (accompanied by Phu), Trinh Cong Son’s “Tinh Nho” (accompanied by Phu and Dung), and “Nhu Canh Vac Bay (with her brother Minh). Due to the sound issues, the guitar sounds were barely audible, which left Thu Hoai’s singing almost naked as if she was doing a cappella. Although her performances were imperfect, they were full of soul. She took her time to articulate the lyrics.

Music aside, Thu Hoai is a down-to-earth lady. Although we met for the first time last night, we have known each other for while on Our love for music (she’s the singer, I’m just the appreciator) brings us together like brother and sister. Big sis, keep the vibe alive. Thanks for the special dedication (“Dem Dong”) and the shout out to