I met Tri and his music during the 60th Grammy Awards while we were both in ballot for the nominations.
From the very beginning, I was charmed by his way of composing and by the highly interesting use he does of his Zither, by mixing the sound of his culture with classical music.
I have admired the great attention and cure that he pays to his projects and I discovered some musical
affinities, even though our paths and instruments are very different.
Today I would like to introduce him to you.
He was born in Saigon, Vietnam, but he has been long living in Paris, France, where he has produced 3
Consonnances published in 2014 which won the Akademia Music Awards and a Gold Medal at Global Music Awards.
The EP Journey Between Worlds released in 2016:
And his latest the album that got me in touch with him, Beyond Borders published in 2017 which won theGold Medal at Global Music Awards, recently nominated at the 16th Independent Music Awards” and in consideration at the 60th Grammy Awards
If we cast your mind back to when you were a kid and a teenager: what are your earliest musical memories?
I was 5 years old : my first steps on the piano with my first music teacher. I began rather early for a kid of my age. The reason was that I was left handed, but then broke my left arm at the age of 4. Being forced to do things with my right hand led to problems with speech, orientation etc. My parents decided to put me on the piano a few months after they removed the cast from my arm. The independance between left and right hands that piano playing required solved all my problems.
They discovered I was gifted for music, and in order to maintain traditions in addition to our opening to western cultures, my parents sent me to an old zither master, the last of his kind, when I was 7. These were unforgettable moments, a master/disciple relationship immediately wove between us. He was very demanding and strict, and often scolded me, but I adored this old scholar and musician. When he died, all his students gathered before his coffin to play for the last time. I still vividly have these memories in my head, a moment of intense emotions, sadness mingled with eternal gratitude. Some fellow students told me afterwards that Master considered me to be his best disciple, the reason why he was so strict with me. I wept hearing this.
My parents were very proud of my musical abilities, and often “bragged” me around. They often demanded that I play the piano or the zither when guests came to our house. My father died when I was a teenager, but I’m grateful that he was able to see how far I had gone in music and make him proud.
Which was the first album you ever bought?
Super Trouper by the ABBA!! lol. We had tons and tons of Deutsche Grammaphon vinyls at home, but no “pop”‘ recordings … so this is what I first bought for myself!
Which musicians do you particularly admire and which one do you think influenced your music?
I think it’s a mixture of all these talents that influence my conception in making music : openness to all kinds of music, but knowing where I go and having my own identity.
Which is the best concert that you have been to?
Funny, but it was with a Chinese cellist peforming the Rococo Variations at the Beijing Grand Opera a few years ago (2012 I think). Can’t even remember his name, but I was struck by the authenticity and honesty of his playing. Made my cry.
What does music mean to you?
Every single existing emotion on earth, generosity, humility, openness. Music is Life, it brings peace to the soul, to mankind.
Music is my life.
Are you still in love with your profession as musician? How do you keep your enthusiasm always live?
Haha! More and more!!! There are ups and downs. Sometimes, when the work is SO intense and exhausting, when the pressure is really hard, I say to myself that being a fruit vendor, a pharmacist, a hair dresser would be so much simpler. But I think it’s like a drug, you just can’t do anything else besides playing and composing music. I then say to myself that I’m a lucky guy, and that not that many people out there have the chance to choose a job they like. I’m conscious of this priviledge.
Usually, in the middle fo the night, I wake up with new ideas for my music, I get up, note down the ideas on my smartphone and go back to bed. Putting those ideas on scores and recordings is such bliss. But then SHARING that music to others, performing on stage or talking about music to audiences is expremely exciting and rewarding. Making music is very important, but you have to share that music, not keep it to yourself. That’s what I try to do to my very best.
In addition to composition and performing, teaching is also what I really cherish. It’s another form of sharing, of giving out. Some musicians do not like teaching. I’m lucky I love this, it makes you humble.
When did you decide to be a full time musician?
When I was about 18. I wasn’t that easy. My family is a very traditional family. Being an excellent musician is one thing, to make music your bread and butter is another. But I made it, and am grateful to the Heavens for that.
Even if being a musician is what I do for a living, I always say to myself that I should never take this for granted. I have to learn more, look out there even further. Some musicians I know lose their passion and just become “I go out there to perform just to feed myself” musicians. This would be horrible for me.
How do you manage your music life with your “common” life? What is your typical day like?
Typical day ? I get up quite late, around 11:00 am (except when I’m on tour, I have to get up much earlier), tend to my cats, empty their litter, give them their nuggets, take my shower, have lunch (too late for breakfast!), look at my emails, practise my piano, then the zither. Then comes all the social media stuff (we’re in the 21st century, this is part of a musician’s life!). Off to the gym 2 or 3 times a week. Before dinner howewer, feeding my cats again, this time they have their canned cat food. I love to cook, so spend an hour or two cooking dinner for myself. After dinner, comes composing time, I always write music at nightime, this could be last till 2/3:00 am, then I eat again, go to bed, watch a TV series on Netflix, then fall asleep!
Teaching is also important. I teach about 3 days a week.
Sometimes I change the order of how I do things, there are other errands to do, but this roughly my typical day!
Tell us more about your latest works (album, live tour, new projects).
I’m starting 2 more compositions, still in their structure form. I like to take my time.
After the Grammy campaign, many musicians have invited me to collaborate with them. They had never heard of the zither before and just fell in love with its sound listening to Beyond Borders.
I’m so honored.
This is what I really like, discovering new universes in music, getting to collaborate with other musicians, learning and sharing.
When I was in Vietnam in October, VTC10, a Vietnamese TV channel, proposed to do a documentary on me, nothing special, I like my relationship with the press, but this is the first time that my mother is present in a story about me as an artist. I was extremely moved during the week when they followed me on film.
Let’s chat about music studies.
Are you self-taught or have you studied music? You think is important studying music to be a Pro?
It all depends on what kind of music one is in as a pro. Some musicians have never been to a music school in their lives and are doing fine. In my opinion, and in my case, I think having a solid background in music, technique and theory, is important. It helps me understand what I do, and it enables me to grasp what others do more easily.
Did you keep on studying?
Speaking of culture, which is the last book that you read?
It’s a profound question about the book, being myself Vietnamese living in France/Europe.
For Christmas, I got a present from a cousin, a book about an Asian family in the US. Maybe a topic which could be “trendy” with the current situation in America.
It’s titled “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste NG.
The book I received is a French translation : “Tout Ce Qu’on Ne S’est Jamais Dit“hat tells the story of a Chinese immigrant married to a white Amercican woman. Their “mixed raced” daughter Lydia was found drowned in a lake… Then revelations of the daughter’s life came to the surface, and questions were posed as to the position of foreigners in a Western land, however their will to be part of the local society.I’m extremely sensitive whenever I watch movies, read a book. I’m the first to shed tears when heartfelt scenes are on the silver screen, or have my heart racing when reading a book I can relate to. I sometimes shed a tear on stage when the connection with the public is so intense I can hardly hold back my emotions.
“Everything I Never Told You” put me in a position of questionning myself as to my origins in a foreign land. My status as an artists kind of gives me a “different” position in the eyes of the “Western” people; but when people do not know what I do, their attitude somehow is different.
“Everything I never Told You” sent me back to one of these moments when I feel a certain “reluctance” from people I barely know in everyday life, but being a musician pushes me to go “beyond borders and bounderies” and reach out to others.
It’s a beautiful book.