Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Here's another story about blurring boundaries - this one's musical. The Vietnamese musician Van-Anh Voh has been collaborating with the Kronos Quartet and Taiko drummers for her new CD "Three-Mountain Pass". Voh now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and reporter Lonny Shavelson has her story.

Lonny Shavelson: Vietnamese traditional musician Van-Anh Voh says she was lucky to be born in Hanoi after the North-South war ended in 1975. While the northern capital was still militarized, her neighborhood was rich was artists and musicians.

Van-Anh Voh: My father was a musician, traditional opera, some classical instruments, or even rock, and by the age of four I started to learn how to read and sing music.

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Shavelson: That enchanted musical childhood was punctuated by persistent north-south hostility. Children continued to die, falling into rain-flooded trenches, but Voh found refuge and Vietnamese unity in traditional music. The north, she says, loved southern opera and generals from both sides were buried to the same traditional lament.

Voh: When you die you come back and have the same voice. I just deeply appreciate traditional music because that's where I felt is united.

Shavelson: Voh became an eminent performer of ancient Vietnamese instruments and when Vietnam re-established relations with the United States in 1995 they sent Voh on a musical diplomatic mission to America.

Voh: I believe that when the music is good it's good and everyone cannot resist to enjoy it.

Shavelson: There was one American, originally from Vietnam, who really did not resist. He followed Voh back to Vietnam. They returned to the US as a married couple.

Voh: I know that I'm leaving Vietnam for a new home with my beloved husband, but it's hard for me because at the time I was very well-established in Vietnam and moving to the US meant that I should have to start from scratch.

Shavelson: But Voh also saw starting from scratch in US as positive. In Vietnam, she says, her voice had been censored.

Voh: All the songs and programs that we do in Vietnam I do as they ask. I do not have much choices. So I know that outside of Vietnam I will find opportunities so that my inner voices about life and people will be able to be expressed, and that becomes very, very important for an artist like me.

Shavelson: But surprisingly in her new home she ran into an old conflict. Almost all Vietnamese here in the US come from the south.

Voh: Being a northerner and specially having a very northern accent, I got into some very strong reactions from other Vietnamese here in the US. Of course I go to get groceries and go to restaurants and the Vietnamese people, they laugh at me or they walk away.

Shavelson: Voh's answer, of course, is through her music. With her new CD "Three-Mountain Pass", she has melded Vietnamese traditions with contemporary sounds in collaboration to the Kronos Quartet to Japanese Taiko drumming. This, she says, is her musical contribution to uniting Vietnam.

Voh: So I find my voice of my own generation, the generation that was born after whatever happened, put into music, strongly rooted like a tree, and then when the branches or the leaves grow up it inhales the heartbeat and all the love from people in this country. I can use my traditional music to hold others together and be united again.

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Shavelson: For "The World", I'm Lonny Shavelson.

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Werman: Check out Lonny's new video of Van-Anh Voh playing a song from her new CD on the [??]. You can find it and lots of other World stories and videos at our new digital home PRI.org. From the Nan and Bill Harris Studios at WGBH in Boston, I'm Marco Werman. Back with you tomorrow.

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