This was the most beautiful Lunar New Year (Tết Nguyên Đán) we’ve ever celebrated in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). I think it was the most enjoyable due to the fact that we truly embraced everything there was to experience.
It was extremely atmospheric walking into a sumptously decorated Tao Dan park in District 3 to a surprising array of competitive displays. There were bonzai trees galore, the traditional yellow-flowered trees of a southern Vietnamese Tet celebration, rocks and minerals and incredibly detailed minature garden scenes. It was great to see the traditional caligraphy created on demand for hanging at home, and there were lots of different dances and live music performances too.
I visited Dam Sen park for the first time, and what struck me the most was the wonderful feeling of space, carved out for holiday makers and family days out in the middle of a bustling city. The traffic was almost non-existent on getting there – I really recommend travelling around Ho Chi Minh City during Tet because it is so chilled out and peaceful.
Dam Sen has a lot to offer including an Aquarium, beautiful gardens, a lake, monorail, water park and loads more! We just pottered around this time and enjoyed the scenery. I felt a wonderful sense of new beginnings and tranquility walking around the quiet gardens near the water.
Nguyen Hue always delivers an impressive stroll through living, blooming sculptures and temporary gardens around the theme of the year’s animal. This year was the rooster, whose colourful plumage lent itself well to the decorations!
Beauty was everywhere and tranquility immersive as the traffic receeded, shops shut and people spent time just stopping to look, see and simply be.
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.’
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