Like the Chinese Twelve Girls Band, Co La is a group made up of seven beautiful Vietnamese ladies who were academically trained in traditional instruments including the bamboo flute, zither, pipa and monochord. On its debut, Dau Cham Hoi, the band brings old instruments as well as modern electronics to Vietnamese popular tunes.
Nguyen Cuong’s “Dan Cam,” highlight of the album, gets a mesmerizing fusion between eastern traditional sounds and western rhythm. The tune kicks off with the northern folksy intro and then proceeded into an upbeat tempo courtesy of Roland TR-808. While the beat is bouncy, the traditional instruments play in unison and the powerful voice never led up. “Ngua O Hue” also stands out. Love the Hue accent and the sawing of the two-stringed dan nhi to make the horse’s neighing effect.
Van Cao’s “Suoi Mo” starts off with the sensational bamboo flute taking listeners into the dreamy state of mind. The sixteen-stringed zither (dan tranh) and the monochord (dan bau) are no less hypnotizing. Trinh Cong Son’s “Hoa Vang May Do” is just achingly beautiful when being revived with traditional instruments.
When being asked about the name Co La “Rare Grass,” a member explains that grass is everywhere, but this is not just the ordinary, wild grass. I wonder if it’s the I-can-roll-it-and-smoke-it type. It’s indeed a different kind.