It is such a privilege to be in Vietnam during the run up to Tết Nguyên Đán (Lunar New Year). It is our fourth year in Vietnam and we have stayed in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) every year during this celebratory time. Many people go away from the city either to visit relatives or go on holiday abroad but we’ve always really loved being around to soak up the atmosphere!
Our first year here was the year of the horse (2014) then came the goat, then monkey and this year will be the year of the rooster. Saigon is vibrant with hues of reds and yellows predominantly but all of the colours of the rainbow can be found at the cho hòa (flower market) where everyone enjoys getting their flowers and decorations ready for the new year.
I have visited the famous flower street of Nguyễn Huệ every Tet I’ve been here, (which is always amazing and I’ll include another post about that after Tet) but strangely I hadn’t been to the amazing flower market on 23/9 Park (Pham Ngu Lao Street near Ben Thanh Market), District 1 before.
So this morning I went along to see where the locals buy their blooms and it was a revelation! What a beautiful and atmospheric place, especially in the early morning light before the hottest part of the day takes hold. I highly recommend pottering around this beautiful market, where you’ll find friendly sellers and sensible prices for breathtaking floral displays.
Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!
As a few people have asked me to share the lyrics to ‘Song for Saigon‘ I thought it would be cool to share them with the world, so here they are.
Song for Saigon
Saigon growing up my window
She’s creeping right under my pillow
With warm lights and motorbikes and sleepless nights and I know,
It’s go with the flow
In this place which goes by many names,
Both different yet somehow the ‘same, same.’
There’s smiling and trying and guessing
..Means ‘no’ when you’re ‘yes-ing’…
Where the city sleeps whatever ways
A nap can be taken most times of day
A floor here, a desk, but by far the best is stretched
the length of a moped.
Stop, watch the ride
of the people who live, the people who give their
calm, moving tide
of peaceful exist; it’s hard to resist this life.
Hard to resist this life.
Language can defeat me
With much local hilarity
Em tên là Claire
một hai ba yo!
hẹn gặp lại
Rất vui được gặp em
Drumming dreaming anti-rhythm
The unrelenting sound of construction
Blends into calls of street food stalls and busy malls
Then hush; the heat of the day
There’s a beauty in her coloured hems
Old houses standing tall and thin since then
When bicycles and cyclos ruled before
The sound of an engine…
Such a happy, truthful open place
With an honest and an easy grace
The busy waves of peoples days and humid haze
While I’m just observing.
Saigon lives near, chaotic yet placid here
Rising high, her focus on present times.
It’s hard to resist this life.
Claire Cameron Copyright 2013.
After I finished Song for Saigon I spent a long time looking through my own photographs, trying to find one which encapsulated everything I was trying to say with the lyrics.
The image for the cover art of the single needed to convey a busy city, chaos, tranquility, people and traffic and shops and food, the beauty and the unlovely, the noise and quiet. It needed to say; ‘here is modern Saigon, as though a woman to be reckoned with, a city who has faced much and grown up, a person who moves on and moves up and forwards with modern times yet holds onto tradition against the odds. A place with two names and one heart, a home, a contradiction and an inspiration and a change.’
So the song covers a lot of ground!
After attempting the design myself and unsurprisingly failing miserably (mainly because I’m not a graphic designer or an expert photographer) I decided to look for ideally a local Vietnamese designer who might be able to put my words and music into a picture.
Then I met Nguyen Thi Kim Hue. She is a wonderfully modest and sweet person who was more than a little daunted by my over-descriptive and perhaps at times (!) confusing proclamations about what Song for Saigon is all about and how she might translate this into art please?
I wanted to share this process because Hue didn’t just produce one amazing image but several, and she managed to capture such a wonderful array of moments from life in Saigon that it was hard to select only one! In the end I chose the one we have because it contains the essence of the song in that you can see if you look closely the traditional long thin Vietnamese houses on the street as well as the modern Bitexco building looming behind a bustling night street scene full of motorbikes, people, shops, bars, restaurants, lights and life.
It is exactly what I was looking for and taken on a popular street in District 1, which is apt as that is where I lived when I started writing the song.
However the peaceful moments, the old, new, fast and slow pace and the construction and the calm and the chaos Hue found in these other images had to be shared as well. Because Song for Saigon is for the whole city with all of these scenes interwoven. Here are a few of my favourites, with my heartfelt thanks to Hue for taking a difficult brief and answering it with beauty.
Two years in the writing, and another one waiting for the right time to release it after flying back to the UK to record it, the time was now.
It was overwhelming to see so many familiar faces in the crowd enjoying the music and supporting the launch. A huge thank you to all of you that came along!
Filming the event were ‘Impressive Vietnam for VTC 10 Net Viet’ and ‘Tuiotre Online’ and it was a privilege that Song for Saigon generated so much local interest. I was really delighted to perform it live and play the recording with the complete Claire Cameron Band performing through the PA for everyone to get the full impact!
There are some photos from the night below, and here is the ‘Impressive Vietnam TV Show about Song for Saigon.’
Claire Cameron Blog
About The New Single ‘The Past Is Not The Now’
Songwriting; moving on when the past still moves you
My Kendal Calling Festival Experience