How did you hear about WMPG and what led to your decision to become a DJ?
My family moved to Maine over ten years ago and we became friends with the local Vietnamese community. After a while, I became involved organizing the Vietnamese New Year celebrations at the Center for Cultural Exchange. One day, the program director at WMPG called me up – I forgot who that was at the time – and asked if there was a chance I could do a show based on Vietnamese music. I grew up around a lot of music and I knew about a lot of Vietnamese musical artists so I attended the training at the station then waited two years before a slot opened up that fit my schedule.
Your show on saturdays feature styles of music that are recognizable as “western” influenced. Can you explain why?
Traditional Vietnamese folk music uses old instruments like the dan bau, an instrument unique to Vietnam, that has a single copper string stretched across a gourd. Also the dan tranh, a 16-string zither; sao truc, a bamboo flute, gongs and hand drums. In the past few years, they have been joined by modern instrumentation like keyboards, electric guitar and drumsets which are popular in the larger cities. The song-writing is about work and life in general but lately there are more ballads. There are also “nationalist” songs that support the country but I don’t play those very often, if at all.
I notice a certain melancholy to the songs. Are they songs about romance?
You might be reacting to tones that follow the rise and fall of the Vietnamese language. The dan ban for example, makes a sound that fits in with the Vietnamese tongue. Songs often take the form of poetry but only recently has romance been the subject of song writing. There is a lot of Opera and choral singing also.
I see a lot of Vietnamese CDs her. Where do you get them?
I often look for new material. Boston is a good place. There is a large Vietnamese community in southern California so I get some music there too.
Do you get any calls during your show?
Yes I do!
Are they from the Vietnamese community in Portland?
Every once in a while, but I get more calls from American Vietnam war veterans who grew fond of the music while in Vietnam decades ago.
You can hear Thaian Vu’s show: Vietnamese Melodies Saturday evenings from 1:30 PM ’til 3 PM.