Kenjah David, the French music ambassador to Vietnam

The ASEAN French Trophy Public Award, sponsored by Transatlantic Bank, lists 6 finalists, including two expatriates in Vietnam. Kenjah David is one of them.

Real name David Abecassis, Kenjah David performs on the biggest Vietnamese stages. True promoter of the French song, he is currently the head of the Hanoi jazz band and a salsa group, The Banda.

But Kenjah David is above all a fan of ethnic music. Following in the footsteps of his anthropologist father (this undoubtedly explains it!), He left to work as an ethnomusicologist, in India, Africa and then in Japan where he settled for a whole decade, before settling permanently here in Vietnam.

Le Petit journal went to meet this multifaceted artist, to discover his passion for music that led him to the status of “Ambassador of French music in Vietnam”.

LPJ: Kenjah David, hi and thank you for giving us this interview. Can you tell us about your artistic activities in Vietnam?

I currently live in Hanoi, the capital. In fact, the essence of my career consists in sharing, in introducing the great standards of French music to the Vietnamese public. For this, I rely on the support of the Institut français and the embassy.

So obviously it’s a pretty ambitious project, but I have to say that for two years the audience has done better than respond. There is a real enthusiasm, which warms the heart, of course, and which above all allows us to see far away. It is this success that, for example, allowed me to take care of the 110th anniversary of the Hanoi Opera and to share, among other things, a duet with My Linh, who is “the” diva of Vietnam, entitled “E if you didn’t exist “

It is true, otherwise, that there is always a dimension of “cultural exchange” in everything I do. I really think I owe this to my anthropologist father, who has worked extensively on the peoples and ethnic groups of South America, and who through his work encouraged me to travel all over the world. There is undoubtedly an element of familial atavism in my interest in ethnic rhythms.

But to return to my artistic activities in Hanoi, there was a great adventure that began within the expatriate community, with the creation of an ensemble of 12 musicians from all walks of life. Unfortunately, the containment happened on this and obviously gave a hell of a brake. I have spent all this time practicing, making plans, hoping for better days.

And then came, those better days. It was a real springtime for the music scene. For me this meant an invitation to the revolutionary press day, a show in front of the President of the Republic to celebrate the reopening and to tourism.

And then I had the honor of being called by the national radio, the Voice of Vietnam, VOV, to participate in an annual radio competition. I prepared it with the French language broadcasting team who interviewed me. And oh surprise, this interview won first prize! A great reward for the radio, of course… But I also think – I hope so – that it will have contributed to giving the image of a fraternal and multicolored France.

LPJ: Your status as “French music ambassador to Vietnam” makes you “the” representative of French music for the Vietnamese. You are inevitably in contact with a lot of Vietnamese … How do they perceive them, what is their point of view on French music?

This title of French music ambassador has allowed me above all to share my multicultural heritage with Vietnam. There are clear affinities between French and Vietnamese, especially on an artistic level. I have the impression that the two enrich each other, from this point of view.

Vietnam Radio Competition Trophy

Here in Vietnam, there are compilations of French music that have been on the market for several years and are obviously very popular. There are also many French title covers that air and are very popular right away. Take, for example, T’as le look Coco, which was a hit at the time of Têt!

LPJ: In your opinion, what are the links between French music and Vietnamese music?

Vietnamese are generally very sentimental and very sensitive to French art. They love walks and love stories. The theme of love is obviously recurring, but also that of the four seasons.

Now, if we look at the great names of Vietnamese song, there are obviously Trang Tien and Trinh Cong Son, who were inspired by war, of course, but in which we also find this dimension of “contemplation of nature”. As for the new generation, these are people who have great respect for the elderly, while being open to external influences, coming from abroad via the Internet. They try to develop a somewhat hybrid, original and fusional identity.

Francophonie in Vietnam

It must be understood that Vietnam is a country in full expansion, full of hope and energy. There is all this youth who really thirst for modernity, but who also want to preserve their cultural identity. And it works because it is a country that has an infinite number of means of expression at its disposal.

LPJ: What experience has marked you the most in the last 5 years in Vietnam?

Yes, everyday Vietnam is an experience in itself! But hey, if I had to remember just one, I’d say … singing and hearing French-speaking Vietnamese in the audience humming Gainsbourg lyrics. This, I must say, is truly unique!

LPJ: What was the biggest difficulty you had to overcome in Vietnam?

National Press Gala of VietnamThere was confinement, of course, with its share of show cancellations, human contact reduced to a trickle.

Otherwise, if I think back to my beginnings here, when you arrive in such a rich country, where everything is to be discovered, you inevitably pass from one challenge to another. I am from Japan and it took me some time to adapt. Even as a musician, after all.

I had to discover the musical language here, listen to traditional instruments, grasp the influence of folklore on modern music.

LPJ: One last question, Kenjah David. In 5 years, where do you see yourself? What are your future plans?
Well, I guess I will continue to have musical experiences with artists from all walks of life!
As for my future projects, Vietnam has a strong national identity and a rich traditional culture, just waiting to merge and open up to the world. As an independent producer, singer, performer and composer, I feel connected to deepen this intercultural exchange. I am always discovering new talent in Southeast Asia, so what I would like now is to design a whole series of shows putting French music to the test of the world’s musical heritage.

Sing love music in Vietnam

The interview with Kenjah David and his musical journey towards becoming the “ambassador of French music in Vietnam” were you happy? Vote now and until November 14, 2022 (noon French time) to support it. Kenjah David is one of the six finalists of the ASEAN French Trophies Audience Award.

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