Orphan singer returns in search of peace 
Portrait du chanteur Randy Tran à la recherche de son passé vietnamien. Article paru sur Vietnam News en 2010.
Abandoned as a new-born, US-Vietnamese singer Randy Tran returns to his native land to search for his mother and the meaning to life. Minh Thu reports.
Where is the most boring place to live? “Where I don’t find any relatives,” Randy Tran, a Vietnamese-American pop singer, replies. Where is the most desirous place to sing? “Anywhere I’m received,” he says.
Tran has returned to Viet Nam three times but has never performed in more shows than he did during his most recent visit.
He sang at HCM City’s Trong Dong (Bronze Drum) Music Stage Theatre, the southern province of Tay Ninh, Ha Noi, the northern city of Hai Phong and will perform again in the central city of Da Nang this weekend before returning to the US.
Tran was born in Da Nang City in 1971. His mother left him at an orphanage when he was only a month old. A few years later he was adopted by a woman in a nearby village.
Tran moved to the US in 1990 and began life in the country of the father he never met. He worked different jobs, such as sewing and ironing clothes, until he was encouraged by his friends to enter several singing contests and even won two. People gradually began to recognize his voice. Many Vietnamese singers living in the US approached Tran and urged him to join their community.
He then started his pop singing career with the guidance of his fellow countrymen.
“I feel warm and moved,” he says, “their love for me is undeniable.”
Tran still wondered why his mother left him to suffer in Viet Nam. But his anger turned to sympathy when he learned of the stigma of having a child out of wedlock with an American during the war.
He thought that perhaps she gave him away in the hope that he would have a better life. Inspired by his past, he wrote a song called After the War, which often brings Vietnamese audiences to tears when performed.
After the war you left mom behind, dad. The loneliness and pain she holds within.
Night after night holding me in her arms, with the tears in the corner of her eyes, wondering where you are.
After living in the US for 20 years, Tran wishes to find his mother alive and well. He has come back to Viet Nam four times to search for her.
“I have never had peace of mind when I think of her,” he says. “Every time I have a chance to come back to Viet Nam, I go straight to places where I think my mother may be living, but my dream has never come true.”
“I jumped at the invitation from the local TV show Suc Song Moi (New Vitality) with the hope that my mother may be living in some distant place and this may be the only way for her to recognise me. I just wish that someday I could fall into her arms and cry.”
Tran did not perform during his previous visits as he was unable to get a work permit; but this time he got an official licence.
“This will help fulfill my aspiration to perform in my birth country. In this trip to Viet Nam, I found another happiness. I know my exact birthday.”
Although he lives far away, he has still maintained Vietnamese lifestyle and language. He even remembers many idioms and proverbs.
“When I was young, I loved studying and reading books and I still do,” he says.
Tran has learned and tried to understand a new sentence of wisdom everyday from his tear-off calendar.
“I love Vietnamese literature and lifestyle. Vietnamese people are tolerant and painstaking. I often tell myself that I should follow the moral lesson and try to live well.”
Although Tran sees that many things have changed since he was young, many people still remember and welcome him. They are surprised that he speaks Vietnamese and hasn’t forgotten them or his former life.
“This trip is very meaningful to me, I have a chance to sing for my people and raise money for the flood victims. That’s a special emotion when the audiences love hearing my songs. They even ask me to repeat.”
People often say that Tran’s singing can move them to tears. He says, “The unhappy childhood years have left its indelible imprint on my heart ever since I began to have a little knowledge about life.”
“I can’t bring myself to sing a happy song when every night in my dreams I long for my mother and the dream still remains unfulfilled. Maybe sad songs suit me better.”
Music helps ease all troubles, Tran says. When he has trouble sharing his feelings with his friends he writes songs.
“Some are presented for others and loved. Some are thrown to the dustbins; but everything I write helps me,” he says.
One day he saw people buying gifts for their mothers on Mothers’ Day. Advertisements for the day were everywhere. He was upset thinking about his mother and wrote Me (Mother), which was quickly received by audiences.
The lyrics may bring people to tears:
My mother leaves me since I was small, I don’t know who my mother is. My father leaving, living without mother, is there anything more grieved?
Tran says he wants to perform with friends in Viet Nam more often. He intends to release his first CD that will include the hits he sang in Viet Nam this year.
“Anyone who listens to Tran’s songs will be charmed because of the beautiful and expressive voice,” says Le Hoang Tien from Ha Noi-based Asia Film Studio.
“When we organised Randy’s performance, He Returns, in HCM City, the audience loved his songs so much that they required another show. That was out of our plan and expectation. Then we had to organise another one to meet their demand.”
“Received in the motherland is my endless happiness and honour. Standing on stage and hearing the audience clap, I know I’m not alone,” Tran says. — VNS
Illustration “à la une” : Randy Tran © DR