Sublime Frequencies presents the first-ever retrospective of Phuong Tâm, the groundbreaking Saigon teenager who became one of the first singers to perform and record rock and roll in 1960s Vietnam.
By chance in early 2020, Hannah Hà (USA) learned that her mother, Phuong Tâm, had once been a famous young singer, performer and recording artist at the heart of Saigon's music scene in the early 1960s. The family had heard some mention of their mom as a singer at the time, but the extent of her legacy and the many songs she had recorded came as a big surprise. Further investigations soon led Hannah to producer Mark Gergis, compiler of Saigon Rock and Soul, enlisting him to join her on a journey of discovery and recovery. The result is this essential document of Phuong Tâm's brief but prolific career, and at the same time, reuniting the long-lost music with its singer.
The unique strengths and qualities of Phuong Tâm's voice, coupled with her commanding stage presence, had swiftly elevated her to top billings on Saigon's nightclub stages. Parallel to the brutality and uncertainty of an already protracted war, South Vietnam's music and recording industry were developing at a rapid pace in the early 1960s. Globally, musical trends with wild, ephemeral dance crazes were being thought up weekly; the twist, hully gully, the mashed potato - none of them a problem for Phuong Tâm. She soon caught the attention of Saigon's leading recording companies and composers (Y Vân, Khánh Bang, Truong Hai, Thanh Son, Y Vu and Mac The Nhân, among others). Her energy translated unsurprisingly well in the studio, backed by electric guitars, contrabass, drums, lush brass sections, saxophone, piano, organ and rich backing vocals.
Between 1964-1966, Phuong Tâm would record almost 30 known tracks, released by the three main record companies in Saigon. The teenage starlet became a vital centerpiece of pop music of the time, and one of the very first singers to perform and record rock and roll (known locally as nhac kích dong, or action music) - though, as you'll hear, she could also transform a jazz ballad into something otherworldly.
While these musical styles were undeniably influenced by contemporary trends worldwide, the musicians and composers worked to localize the sounds, incorporating linguistic adaptations, lyrical content and past artistic traditions into something all their own. In 1966, as Saigon's music scene continued to evolve and escalate, Phuong Tâm walked away from her singing career without looking back - marrying the man she loved and beginning the next rich chapter of her life. But her recorded output had laid the stylistic groundwork for the following generations of singers, and many of the songs she first sang would later be further popularized by others. Her impactful, but short-spanning career has seen her legacy remain historically understated until now.
Due to the lack of master tapes or documentation from pre-1975 Vietnam and the scarcity of records and tapes that had survived the war, it was difficult to grasp the extent of Phuong Tâm's discography. A collective effort was required in sourcing materials and information to compile this record, involving key collectors and producers internationally (Jan Hagenkötter, Cuong Pham, Adam Fargason, Khoa Hà - granddaughter of composer Y Vân, and researcher Jason Gibbs). As the veils of history were slowly lifted, the genuine thrill was witnessing Phuong Tâm herself, hearing these songs for the first time in over 50 years - sometimes since the day she recorded them.
At the heart of this project is a family story - Hannah Hà's dedication to recovering and sharing her mother's musical legacy is helping put Phuong Tâm back on center stage after 55 years. But it is also a story that adds critical context to the fragmented understanding of Vietnamese popular culture during the 20th century, particularly after so much has been lost to war and dislocation. The album features 25 tracks, restored and remastered from original records and reel tapes. Deluxe double LP release comes with two 14-page booklets in English and Vietnamese, featuring extensive liner notes by Hannah Hà and Mark Gergis, exclusive photos, album and sheet music art, original magazine and newspaper extracts, nightclub advertisements and more.
Phuong Tâm could belt like Wanda Jackson, growl like Brenda Lee, croon wistfully like Connie Francis, and put over a ballad like Dinah Washington....The guitars are spiky, the rhythm section ounces like a welterweight and the horns cut through the decades of static like a clarion call. Add Tâm to the mix and it's some crackling rock & roll fun. She shines too on the slower songs; whether they are jazzy vamps, string-laden heartbreakers, or creepy crawly twists, her vocals are always the shining cherry on top of the perfectly arranged songs....She's the real deal, with all the skill and charisma to make these songs jump and shake with life.
- Double LP
- First-Ever Phuong Tam Retrospective
- Restored & Remastered from Original Records & Reel Tapes
- Gatefold Jacket
- Two 14-Page Booklets in English & Vietnamese
- Extensive Liner Notes by Hannah Hà & Mark Gergis
- Exclusive Photos, Album & Sheet Music Art, Magazine/Newspaper Extracts & Nightclub Advertisements
- Có Nho Dêm Nào (Remember the Night)
- Buon 18 (Sorrow at 18)
- Anh Ðâu Em Ðó (Wherever You Are, I Will Be There)
- Neu Có Xa Nhau (If We're Far Apart)
- Phút Say Mo (In My Dream)
- Ðêm Huyen Dieu (Magical Night)
- Nhip Ðàn Vui (A Merry Tune)
- Ai? (Who?)
- Van Yêu Hoài (Still Loving You Always)
- Ngày Phép Cua Lính (A Soldier's Day of Leave)
- Lá Thu (The Letter)
- Ðôi Tám (Double Eight)
- Than Tuong (Idol)
- Nho Mình Anh Thôi (Missing Only You)
- 60 Nam (60 Years)
- Tình Lính (A Soldier's Love)
- Buon Lên Thành Pho (The Sadness of the City)
- Lòng Trai 20 (The Heart of a 20-Year-Old)
- Neu Có Em (If I Have You)
- Tình Mo (Dreamy Love)
- Buoc Giang Ho (My Wonderful Journey)
- Nhung Ngày Qua (Bygone Twisted Days)
- Còn Nho Gì Không (Do You Remember?)
- The Hãy Còn Xa Lam (Still So Far Away)