Various: The Rough Guide to the Music of Vietnam (Rough Guide/Elite)

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Kim Sinh: Li Giao Duyen
Various: The Rough Guide to the Music of Vietnam (Rough Guide/Elite)

Frankly my two periods travelling around Vietnam didn't involve much searching out of music -- although by my desk I keep a photo of a poor woman singer leading her blind guitar-playing brother through a market in the village of Hoi An.

She sang songs of such ineffable sadness that tears flowed from her eyes and the market came to halt to listen. I took the photograph to constantly remind myself that "music" does need to mean CDs, press releases and interviews.

My sole other music experience worth mentioning was the night I was taken off on the back of motorcycle to get a cassette by a singer called Elvis Phuong that a guy in a bar told me about. It was a mad ride through the night and he woke up some poor fellow asleep in his shop (it was late, about 8pm) and I bought some tapes.

Elvis was bloody ordinary actually, but it was his name I looked for first here, knowing I would recognise no other.

Elvis has left this particular building -- but this hypnotic collection has some woozy traditional folk, beguiling pop ballads, excellent biographical notes, and tracks which boast diverting arrangements.

And Blue Asia here is Japanese producer Makoto Kubota and his Malaysian production team who tap into the undeniably bluesy sound of some Vietnamese music to create what might be called Mekong Delta Blues. Fascinating.

I don't expect many people to turn an ear to this, but I find it quite wonderful.

There are some Vietnam stories under Encounters in Elsewhere, and my travels there in 95 and 97 made for a chapter in my book Postcards From Elsewhere

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