20 December 2006

Nắng Chiều (Na('ng Chie^`u)

A few years ago I saw the foreign film Cyclo, by director Tran Anh Hung (Trần Anh Hùng) and starring Hong Kong movie star Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. The movie received much critical acclaims, although to me it's just a very dark and sad movie about post-1975 Saigon, aka Ho Chi Minh City. Life for a rickshaw (cyclo) driver was hard enough as it was, some thugs working for the rickshaw boss had to rob him of his rickshaw. To pay back for the robbed vehicle, Cyclo Driver had to enter the crime underworld to make the extra money.

There were many visually stunning scenes, but somehow the one that I remember most about the movie was where at some restaurant, a team of two male amputees performed the song NắngChiều to try to earn money. In wartorn Vietnam, amputees are usually war verterans. It certainly wasn't the first time I heard the song. Maybe it was the theater's superb audio system, or maybe it's just the mood the movie set me up in, I started to like the song very much. The first place I looked in trying to find the song was in my late father's CD collection. The song wasn't in there, as most my father's CDs were actually musicals, stories put to music. There were other Vietnamese pop music, but Nắng Chiều wasn't in them either. I don't know why I didn't search for it on the web, maybe back then I didn't bother exploring the MP3 format. A few days ago, the urge to have Nắng Chiều in my iPod somehow surfaced again. First thing I did was check the iTunes Music Store to see if it has the soundtrack for the movie Cyclo. Personally, I hate movie soundtrack CDs as they usually contain the one theme song performed in seven or more different ways - normal, fast, slow, with lyric, etc. But I want Nắng Chiều bad and I was willing to pay for it. Alas, iTMS didn't have the soundtrack. I live not too far from Chinatown, where there are some Vietnamese stores that carry Vietnamese music, but I don't have the time to just run out to Chinatown to flip through several CDs to find the song I want. Besides, I would have to know the names of the singer in order to locate the song. Next best option - Google.

Sure enough, with Google I learned that the songwriter was Lê Trọng Nguyễn. I also came across a web site with lyric for the song accompanied by a MIDI tune. MIDI means it's just an instrumental version, no lyric, kinda like Muzak. Next I found a WMA (Windows Media Audio, a format foisted upon the world by the Evil Empire aka Microsoft) of a performance by the singers Kim Anh and Doanh Doanh, first in Vietnamese then in Mandarin. Yet another version was totally in Japanese - I have no clue what it says, but it sure sounds good. In the end, no MP3, but that wasn't a problem. As long as I can play the music from the computer's built-in speaker, using the audio program Audacity and the iMic USB device I can capture it into an audio file. From Audacity, converting the audio into MP3 is just another simple step. So for now, I don't have a Vietnamese-only version of Nắng Chiều, but the three versions I have - MIDI, Vietnamese-Mandarin, and Japanese - will have to do. I'll make an effort to visit one of those music store in Chinatown in the upcoming weeks, too.

"Nắng" means "sunlight" and "chiều" means "evening" or "dusk", so "Nắng Chiều" can be loosely translated to "evening light" or "the light at dusk". Unlike American songs where the song title is repeated umpteen times in the song, in Vietnamese songs the title appears only once, sometimes not at all. With Nắng Chiều in particular, the phrase only appears near the very end of the song, in

Nhớ em dịu hiền nắng chiều ngừng trôi...

meaning "Missing you so much the evening light stop moving".


  1. Hi Linus, Youtube has several versions of this song, e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMx6r-jUI7I Unfortunately none comes even close to the one from the movie. I've tried hard to find more information about it, but failed. Perhaps there is no complete recording of it. :-(

  2. Hi George, thanks for the tip about YouTube. There are indeed many YouTube videos of the song and they are pretty good. There is even a clip of the scene in the Cyclo movie, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gB76l3hhIOo . Watching on YouTube sure is no match as watching it in the theater, but still the sound is pretty simple, there's much background noise and only two instruments going, I can't recall what got me into writing the blog entry. Or maybe I just lost some brain cells since 2006 (eight years ago!). Thanks for stopping by!