Image Credits: Nguyên Lê © Leonardo Schiavone
February 26, 2018
The French-Vietnamese guitar player Nguyên Lê is today one of the most recognizable musicians in the world musical scene. With Hà Nôi Duo (Act, 2017), he has musically joined eastern and western cultures in a very personal sound.
> Ivano Rossato
How did your project Hà Nôi Duo arise?
The project came out of the encounter with the Vietnamese musician Ngô Hồng Quang, who is the embodiment of nowadays’ Vietnam. To me, artists like him represent the new expression of the tradition: they safeguard their own roots but, at the same time, they are young, they learn fast, and they also know western culture. Thanks to this mix, they’re open to create new music but, at the same time, they are deeply rooted in tradition.
Your career is very rich of very differentiated collaborations; how do you select the musicians for your projects?
To me, friendship is the most important element in a musical relationship. I could never play with somebody I’m not comfortable with, even if he is an excellent musician. Then, I need to play with somebody who has something different to say, intense, and true to himself, to the persons he is playing with and to the people listening to him.
When listening to your compositions, it is very clear that you have a mix of different cultures: how did you build this very personal style?
It is something that was an obsession for me since the first album: to find a unique and a true style. To do this, I think you have to start from your roots that, as far as I’m concerned, are obviously in Vietnam, but not only. For example, at the beginning of my career I played a lot of the Deep Purple or Jimi Hendrix music, of whom I particularly loved the electric energy. And this is what I tried to carry in the music I play today. For my all life I have been learning so much from so many good musicians, and I wish all of this has created my own personal musical language.
In some of your records you reinterpreted the music written by other artists; how do you approach this work of reinterpretation of such very famous works?
Everything starts from the wish of expressing my love and my respect for that music. And I ask myself: “What do you want to do with this track, to create something sincere and unique?” Of course, I start from a deep study of that music but, from a certain point on, I need to disclose from the original and I have to express my voice by creating something new.
On which project are you now working?
The next project will be focused on Vietnam again, particularly on the concept on migration, that nowadays really concerns all the world. It will not only be about music, but it will be a show staging a quintet playing traditional and modern instruments, supported by circus performers and hip-hop dancers.
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