Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ngoc Lan on PBN

When we think of Ngoc Lan in music videos, naturally May Productions would most likely be the first production company that would come to mind due to her lengthy association with the label and the two very memorable solo videotapes of Ngoc Lan that had been released in the early 1990s.  Asia Productions would probably come second in terms of a production company associated with Ngoc Lan's appearances in music videos.  It is only fair to say that Ngoc Lan's work on her first two solo music videotapes produced by May Productions truly revolutionized the Vietnamese music video production industry setting higher standards in quality.  The enormous success from both of Ngoc Lan's solo music videotapes produced by May Productions undoubtedly enabled the label to launch the Hollywood Night series in the early 1990s, in which its popularity for a number of years really had given the Paris by Night series produced by Thuy Nga Paris a serious run for its money.  With each volume of Paris by Night that Thuy Nga Paris was dishing out during those years in the early 1990s, May Productions would immediately right behind them coming out with a new volume of the Hollywood Night series with just as wide of viewer audience reception.  The competition between the two labels was quite stiff as the performances of each of their products out in the market were really neck and neck.  But then right around the mid 1990s, another competitor joined in on the race, Asia Productions.  Like the saying goes, only the strong survive.  That was the case with this war between Thuy Nga Paris, Asia Productions and May Productions.   Despite having Ngoc Lan on their lineup of regular performers along with the recruitment of several top players from the Paris by Night stage such as Lynda Trang Dai, Huong Lan, Y Lan, Tuan Ngoc and Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen, May Productions couldn't stand up to the fierce competition against Thuy Nga Paris and Asia Productions by the mid 1990s.  Following the downfall of May Productions, their biggest star, Ngoc Lan, would venture out and collaborate with Asia Productions as well as Thuy Nga Paris to make appearances on each of the production companies' live show music video series.  This move by Thuy Nga Paris of recruiting Ngoc Lan onto the lineup of Paris by Night performers came as of no
Ngoc Lan's Debut Appearance on Paris by Night
Performing Duc Huy's Mua Xuan Trong Doi Mat Em 
surprise.  Afterall, Ngoc Lan was one of the most bankable recording artists among overseas Vietnamese singers.  Since Thuy Nga Paris has been the most prolific overseas Vietnamese music production label with its extremely successful Paris by Night series which has served as the primary stage for overseas Vietnamese entertainers featuring all the biggest names, why wouldn't Ngoc Lan be recruited?  Ngoc Lan certainly ranks as one of the biggest names ever among overseas Vietnamese singers.

Ngoc Lan on Paris by Night
 performing Con Mua Trong Doi
Ngoc Lan's tenure at Thuy Nga Paris, although brief lasting only from 1995-1996, would, however, entail performances on the Paris by Night stage that have been considered to be some of her most memorable.  Contrary to her performances on Hollywood Night, we see a more mature Ngoc Lan on the Paris by Night series.  The songs she had selected to appear on video for Thuy Nga Paris were more heartfelt and geared specifically toward a more mature adult viewer audience.  All five of her appearances on Paris by Night, Ngoc Lan was seen singing ballads.  Even her style of dress had changed.  Ngoc Lan would be seen wearing elegant evening gowns in all but one out of the five music videos for Thuy Nga which was a far cry from the days when she was either dressed in shorts singing and dancing to Joe le Taxi with a group of back-up dancers on the Hollywood Night stage or better yet, when she was dancing around in a lake dressed in a gothic all-black dress and wearing a hat in her music video of Johnny, Johnny.  It's not that she didn't look cute back in those earlier videos.  She certainly did.  But Ngoc Lan was an artist with enough wisdom to know how to dress and appear in a style that is age appropriate.  During the time of Ngoc Lan's collaboration with Thuy Nga Paris, although still quite beautiful, she was by then approaching 40.  She was fully aware that her days of being seen in skimpy shorts singing and dancing on stage to bubble gum music were well over and that a more sophisticated look and sound were evidently the appropriate image for her to now take on.  As it turned out, Ngoc Lan's calculations were dead on.  And because of that, she would only further gain the respect and adoration of her huge following of fans.

Ngoc Lan looking very sexy
while singing Duy Quang's Kiep Dam Me on Paris by Night  
All five of the songs that Ngoc Lan had performed on Paris by Night were nothing short of phenomenal beginning with her debut appearance on the series on Volume 33 with the song, Mua Xuan Trong Doi Mat Em.  Since this is a tune penned by Duc Huy, what other singer would be more well suited to record this song than our beloved Ngoc Lan, herself?  Ngoc Lan's performance of Kiep Dam Me was just flawless.  She looked incredibly sexy in that dress.  After hearing her rendition, I must say no other singer could even match Ngoc Lan's interpretation of this beautiful, heartbreaking ballad penned by her friend, the legendary singer/songwriter Duy Quang.  In Em Ve Nao Co Hay, written by composer Hoang Trong Thuy, Ngoc Lan really pours her heart and soul into the song.  Again, I can't think of another singer's version of that song I'd rather listen to.  Con Mua Trong Doi, a song that was originally written in Japanese and given Vietnamese lyrics written by Khuc Lan, was another flawless performance from Ngoc Lan on Paris by Night.  And finally, my favorite of them all, Ngoc Lan's performance of Trinh Nam Son's Ve Day Em clearly exemplified why I had become a devoted fan of hers.  Ngoc Lan's delivery of this song was gentle and sweet, yet passionate and full of emotion.  I still get chills everytime I watch this video on YouTube.

Ngoc Lan and Ve Day Em on Paris by Night
I wish Ngoc Lan's tenure on Thuy Nga Paris had been a longer one.  As a matter of fact, I wish Ngoc Lan's life and career had been longer.  It is rather difficult to accept how such a great artist who was so beautiful and talented like our beloved Ngoc Lan is no longer with us.  But at least we still have her music and videos to remember her by.  The legend of Ngoc Lan definitely still lives on. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What Exactly Is Multiple Sclerosis?

The disease that had taken our beloved Ngoc Lan's life, as we all know now, was called multiple sclerosis.  For many of us, prior to Ngoc Lan's passing, we had probably never heard of this disease before.  I, myself, had heard vaguely about the disease in the past when it had affected a few famous people, mainstream American celebrities such as Annette Funicello and Richard Pryor.  But I really hadn't made much of an effort to learn about the disease, mostly because of the old clich√© that it hadn't really hit close to home yet.

Many other people of Asian descent, such as myself, have also shared the same apathy that I had had about multiple sclerosis.  I've learned that perhaps it is quite understandable why multiple sclerosis might not be much of a concern with people of either Asian or African descent, since the disease has been known to affect mostly victims belonging to the Caucasian race, especially those of Scandinavian ancestry.  It seems like multiple sclerosis is more rampant among people from regions of the world that are far away from the equator.  Since Vietnam is a country situated just slightly above the equator, there hasn't been many, if any, cases of multiple sclerosis documented in Vietnam since the initial discovery of the disease by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot in 1868.  The disease is not hereditary nor is it contagious.  The fact that someone like Ngoc Lan, a Vietnamese, had come down with multiple sclerosis could mean that the disease can be caused by environmental factors and not necessarily because of one's ethnic origin.  Think about it, if Ngoc Lan had spent her entire life living in Vietnam or in places of tropical, warmer climates, rather than having relocated to places like Minnesota and even here in Southern California, perhaps she would have never been stricken with multiple sclerosis.  Of course, that's all based on a "maybe" or a "perhaps".

What causes multiple sclerosis remains unknown to this day.  But what doctors do know about the disease is that it is a neurological disorder that is a result of an inflammatory infection of the brain which causes the one's own immune system to attack itself.  There is no cure for the disease.  However, the earlier the detection of multiple sclerosis and the sooner one starts to seek treatment for the disease, the greater the chances one has in possibly prolonging his or her life.  Although the amount treatment that is now available for victims stricken with multiple sclerosis is rather limited, it can make a big difference the earlier a person is diagnosed.  The symptoms range from anything such as fatigue or feeling unusually tired to having sudden bouts of pain or nausea without any reasonable cause.  In Ngoc Lan's case, she wasn't properly diagnosed with having multiple sclerosis for several years and therefor, she did not receive any treatment until the disease had already taken over.

Ngoc Lan's untimely death is indeed a tragedy. The fact that the cause of her death was multiple sclerosis, a disease that rarely any other Vietnamese has ever been diagnosed with, given how she was so well known has helped raise awareness of the disease and that she did not die in vain. We now know that the disease can affect just about everyone, and that nobody is immune to it.  For those of us that did love Ngoc Lan, after learning about multiple sclerosis and what can be done once diagnosed it's difficult for anyone of us not to wonder, just what if?  For more information about this disease, contact the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America with the link below.


Multiple Sclerosis Association of America

Monday, March 2, 2015

Did You Know That Ngoc Lan Could Also Sing in Chinese?

When we think of Ngoc Lan and the several different languages that she could sing in other than Vietnamese, the first language that would come to mind would naturally be French with all of the beautiful French love songs she had recorded throughout her career.  We all loved Ngoc Lan's covers of French love songs not just because her pronunciation in French was rather good, but more so because of how she was able to put her heart and soul into the music with each recording.  She could easily just break your heart with her somber, yet sweet voice that just seemed perfect for such easy listening, romantic French ballads with the most beautifully written sad lyrics.  I still get goose bumps everytime I listen to Ngoc Lan's rendition of Je Pense Encore √† Lui that was featured on her first solo studio album.  That was probably one of the most heartfelt performances I've ever heard.  Of course, there are countless others such as Vivre Pour Toi, Mourir Pour Toi, Viens M'embrasser, Ne Laisses Pas Ma Vie Sans Toi, and pretty much any of the rest of the songs she had recorded on her third solo studio album, L'amour Tinh Ta.  The songs she had selected along with her deliveries on that album were nothing short of perfection.  I could go on and on about Ngoc Lan and the long list of French songs she had recorded which I loved so much.  But this article is about another language that Ngoc Lan was able to sing in other than Vietnamese.  I'm not talking about English.  We all know our beloved Ngoc Lan had made many efforts to sing in English during her career, and although her English was pretty good as she was able to speak, read and write in English pretty well, when she sang in English, she just couldn't get beyond her thick Vietnamese accent.  That was rather odd, when I think about it, because when she spoke in English, she barely had any accent at all.  The language that Ngoc Lan was able to sing in that I find to be rather shocking was Chinese.  When we think of Vietnamese singers that were able to sing in Chinese, singers like Kim Anh, Tuan Dat, Lucia Kim Chi and Thai Doanh Doanh pop up in our minds.  Afterall, these singers are of Chinese descent and are able to speak Chinese.  But not Ngoc Lan.

During the era sometime in the 1980s, Chinese dramas had become so popular with Vietnamese people, as a matter of fact throughout all of Asia, this period became known as the Chinese Wave.  The Korean Wave is now in effect with the popularity of Korean dramas.  Haven't you noticed how a lot of Vietnamese are now listening to Korean music?  Well, during the Chinese Wave, many Vietnamese singers jumped on the band wagon and started to sing in Chinese.  Among them were Elvis Phuong, Kieu Nga, Hai Ly, Julie Quang, billed simply as Julie,  and even our own beloved Ngoc Lan.

I've found three songs that Ngoc Lan had recorded in Chinese.  The first was a song featured on Asia Productions' third volume cassette, Da Vu Xanh.  The name of the song in Vietnamese was Cung La Buon.  I wasn't too crazy about the song.  But I did, however, like Ngoc Lan's vocals on it.  I found it a bit surprising to hear Ngoc Lan sing in Chinese the first time I heard it.  The other two were released by Da Lan.  One of them was a song she had recorded on a compilation album entitled as Co Gai Do Long, which consisted of 12 popular Chinese love songs recorded by various Vietnamese artists such as Tuan Anh, Huong Lan, Kieu Nga, Luu Hong, Nhu Mai, Tuan Dat, Duy Quang, Hai Ly and Bich Ha.  The Vietnamese title for the song Ngoc Lan had recorded on this album was Dong Song Ly Biet 2.  I especially loved this song.  Ngoc Lan did an excellent job with this recording.  I don't speak any Chinese, myself, to know whether her pronunciation was good or not.  But the other day, one of my good friends, Richard, who is Chinese was listening to it.  He smiled a bit.  When I asked him what he thought of her pronunciation, he just said he thought it was very cute.  By the way, there is one other track on Co Gai Do Long that is worth mentioning.  Singer Luu Hong had recorded a track featured on this album entitled as Lau Dai Tinh Ai which really took my breath away the first time I listened to it.  I still get goose bumps whenever I listen to Luu Hong's outstanding performance with this song.  I'd say out of all the tracks featured on Co Gai Do Long, the two tracks recorded by Luu Hong and Ngoc Lan really made the entire album.  The last out of the three songs that Ngoc Lan had recorded partially in Chinese was featured on Da Lan Volume 22:  Nhac Phim Bo Chon Loc.  Like the previously mentioned compilation album released under the Da Lan label, this album would also consist of 12 tracks, all of which were covers of popular Chinese love songs.  Ngoc Lan had recorded two tracks on this album; a duet track with Vu Khanh, Tron Kiep Yeu Nguoi, and a solo track, Cuoc Doi Phu Du, in which she had recorded about half of the song in Mandarin.  I neither cared much for her delivery of this song, the melody of the song nor the Vietnamese lyrics that had been written for Ngoc Lan to record.  As a matter of fact, this entire album was rather disappointing.  Despite the impressive lineup of various artists featured on this compilation album which included Vu Khanh, Ngoc Lan, Kieu Nga, Duy Quang, Nhu Mai, Mai Huong, Thanh Phong, Luu Hong, Hai Ly, Thanh Mai, Tuan Vu, Kim Tuyen, Tuan Anh and Bich Ha, the entire production just seemed like a sham.  I tried my best to listen to the entire album from beginning to end, and I couldn't even come up with the slightest compliment for anything.  Not the sound quality, photo cover, vocals, arrangements, song selections were even of mentioning.  Overall, the quality level of production for this album was poor.  If it were to be given a grade, I would give it a C minus only because I'm rather generous.  It should really get a D grade.