An Interview
With
BAO HAN
As we grow as a site, more and more singers are aware of our activities and a few have actually visited and commented on our guestbook. Ms. Bao Han is one of several Vietnamese singers who has taken the time to grant us this interview over cyberspace. This interview shed new lights to Bao Han the singer, the person, and in many ways, a traditional Vietnamese woman.

Vietscape: What is your real name and how did you come up with your stage name?

Bao Han: Phan Quoc Bao Han ( hay ddu? ro^`i!! Hee, Hee!!!!)

VS: What was your birthday ?

BH: I was born on April 25, 1973

VS: Where were you born and where did you grow up? What high school did you attend ?

BH: I was born in Saigon; since 1975, my family and I have been living in Vienna, Austria. I went to Saint Ursula, a private Catholic high school for girls.

VS: When did you come to the US, where did you first live and where are you living now ?

BH: I came to Austria 1975, I am still living in Austria

VS: Are there any musician(s) in your family?

BH: Actually I started my singing career in a family band (at the age of 12). None of us were professional musicians or singers but we loved music so much that nothing or nobody could have ever prevent us from spending so much money on instruments and on our tours through Europe (Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany..). We slept in our cars, on the streets, at the gas station...but we had the best time of our lives. My dad was the "manager" of the band (Co+` Va`ng) and he never forced anyone of us to perform but the older I became, the more I realized what exactly he wanted to achieve by founding this band. Since my brothers, my sister and me grew up in Austria, a country with LESS than 4000 Vietnamese people it was very hard to find Vietnamese friends to communicate in Vietnamese. I have to admit that my spoken Vietnamese ( I didn't know how to write or to read in Vietnamese anyway) was very "interesting" by that time and I totally felt Austrian. My dad wanted us kids to learn more about the Vietnamese culture and then he found a way how to teach us: through music.
In church , summer 96. From left:

Ba?o Vo~ (oldest brother)
Thanh Thu?y (cousin)
Ba?o A^n (older sister)
Ba?o Ha^n
Bo^' Ba?o (father)
Me. Lan (mother)

VS: When was your first time singing in public?

BH: Gia'ng Sinh 1985, in Vienna, Austria.

VS: How and where did you learn to sing ? Did you get encouragement from family? (music school, how many years learning music, any famous teachers or students that become famous, any anecdotes ...)

BH: During rehearsal for the band (I came to listen) my uncle was practicing a song he liked very much, but he couldn't memorize the lyrics. So I sang it to show him the correct words.He said:"I think you should sing it!!" I never had any class or anything like this, but if I would have more time, I definitely want to take singing class

Vienna, winter 86. From left:

Phu+o+ng Tra^m (friend)
Trung Cu+o+`ng (uncle)
Trung Hie^'u (uncle)
Ba?o Ha^n
Phu+o+ng Loan (friend)
Ba?o Vo~ (oldest brother)
Ba?o Phong (older brother)

VS: When did you start your musical career and how?

BH: I started singing when I was 12 years old, but that was all for fun. I never thought of becoming a singer (especially not a Vietnamese singer, because my Vietnamese was horrible), so I actually never did anything to push my "career". At the age of 19 I used to work as a model for Mr Tha`nh Le^~ a Vietnamese designer who's known for his "funky" A'o Da`i. During one of his fashion shows about 5 years ago in Paris I sang a song and Mrs Thuy Nga who was there by chance asked me to co^.ng ta'c with trung ta^m Thuy Nga. I've been working for them since then.

VS: When was the first time you get paid for singing?

BH: After my first appearance on Paris by Night 16 (Paris,1992).

VS: Are you influenced by any kind of music or musician(s)? Vietnamese or Foreign? What type of music you love best ?

BH: In the Vietnamese music business there's maybe one particular female singer I admire the most although the work we're doing is totally different from each other: Ai Van! To me, she has all the qualities a Vietnamese singer ought to have: Talent, an incredible voice, professionality, great personality (she's great to work with) and on top of that. she's still down to earth! Of course I do have a lot of idols in the foreign music industry and that's what I've been trying to do during the last 5 years: to combine these two cultures. I love Soul music to death and I'm pretty sure, even it might sound a little bit strange, that there's a way to mix Vietnamese and Soul music. I am a very open person, which means that I like to listen to all kinds of music: Since I grew up in Vienna I also grew up with classical music (Giuseppe Verdi, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and of course Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart...), I'm dying for Soul but I can still listen to Alternative music the whole day long, House is great to dance to but Hard Rock is the best to free your mind, Rap is just cool and Vietnamese music is good to relax.....

VS: What is your source of inspiration?

BH: Whenever Thuy Nga is doing another Paris by Night show, we always discuss about each singer's next number. We choose the song together and then it's up to me how I would like to "translate this song into action". The arrangement of the song is very important because sometimes this helps me a lot to think of an idea. I would listen to the song all day long and usually the idea comes along. Well, I don't know exactly where all these ideas come from but I would describe myself as person who has always been a dreamer. I guess everybody's a dreamer but I'm very lucky to be in a business where sometimes I can make my dreams come true (for example: every girl wanted to be a princess just once in her lifetime: I was a princess for a couple of minutes on Paris by Night 36, even though it was tragic role; When I was young I always wanted to be boy because they were allowed to do more than girls: I was a boy on Paris by Night 34...)

VS: Is there a particular song that you are most proud of? Why?

BH: Wow, that's a hard question and I knew it's gonna come. When I look back I can't hardly remember a song I didn't work hard on, because each song was a challenge of it's own. Alright, but if you really want me to choose one I would say it was "Mot kiep phong ba" on TN 34, because I chose the song myself, I took care of the clothes myself (fabrics, design..) and in fact it was a challenge for me because I didn't and I still don't know anything about Kung Fu. Those guys who really know how to danh vo and watched the videotape will confirm that it was more dancing than "fighting". Still I worked very hard on this number (especially when I think of the days and nights I spent in front of the TV by watching phim chuong ...)and the fact that this song finally became very successful makes me incredibly happy and proud.

VS: What was your most memorable performance ?

BH: Of course, the song I was talking about at question above was one of my most memorable performances but there's in fact another song I will never forget for the rest of my life , because I remember that I was almost about to quit. In Paris by Night 35 people could see a very happy, energetic Bao Han singing "Co Be Doi Hon"......on skies. Of course I had ski lessons in my life before because when you grow up in Austria you HAVE to know how to ski, but I would never consider myself as a good skier. The film crew and me spent 4(!!) days in the mountains of Chamonix, a very popular ski resort in France. It was cold, the air was thin, I could hardly breathe, the locations were very dangerous sometimes (in the video clip itself you cannot see the danger), I had to ski, I had to sing, I had to be happy at the same time, I fell down a million times, I bumped into everything which was in my way, I had bruises all over my body and so on and so on ...I was just sick of everything! But when we finished the number I was just happy and couldn't wait to see the edited result of our hard work.And now that people tell me how much they like this song .... it was all just worth it!!!( Bao Han's philosophy: Applause is the artist's wage!!!)

VS: Do you play any musical instruments ?

BH: When I was in High School I had to learn to play one instrument. I chose the guitar but I also know how to play the piano a little bit

VS: Do you get involved with any other type of arts or performance outside of music ?

BH: Well, not really, but I love to do them all: I love to dance. I went to a dancing school, when I was 6 years old). I also love to act. I "wrote" my first play when I was 12 years old. I love to draw... I graduated in art when I was in High School.

VS: What kind of fan contact do you have ? Do you receive letters? Do fans come talk to you after concert?

BH: I do receive a lot of letters and usually they're from kids or teenagers. It really makes me blush reading all the nice stuff they're telling me but I'm even more honored whenever they ask me if I could be their "big sis". Now that I am also receiving emails, I noticed that it's a different age group. I love to talk to people after concerts because it's more personal and it's also the only way for me to show my fans that Bao Han in real life isn't different from them at all!

VS: How would someone contact you? Do you surf the Internet and if yes, do you have an E-mail address and can it be published?

BH: People can contact me by writing letters to:

VS: What do you like doing in your free time outside of singing? Do you have any hobbies?

BH: I like all sports,(skiing-I try to-,snowboarding, swimming, Aerobic at the Gym 3 times a week etc.); whenever I come home to Vienna, I try to spend as much time as possible at the "Musikverein", a very famous classical music hall; I like art ( I love to draw myself, going to the museum); I like travelling around the world to meet people from a different culture; I like writing and getting letters; and I like sleeping; and laughing etc.

VS: Any favorite food and drink ?

BH: If I wouldn't have to be on a diet all the time I would love to eat...anything: Hamburgers, Sushi, Pizza but my favourite, favourite is co+m with canh rau dday, ca` pha'o cha^'m ma('m to^m!!

VS: Any project in terms on CD, video, concert in the next 6 months ?

BH: I just finished my first own CD for Thuy Nga ( day of release?? Soon!!) Paris by Night 39 will be out in April. Concerts?? Sorry folks, I'm on vacation!!! Home is the best place to relax but I'll spend the whole summer in the US just to go on shows and to work on the next Paris by Night music video.

VS: Of all the places you have appeared for performance, is there any place you like best and would like to go back ? And why ?

BH: Actually I don't have a favourite place because since I started my singing career I had the chance to see visit a lot of places, to meet people and to learn from them (and their culture). The reason why I would give anything to go back to these places is because I want to see those people, I had to leave behind, again.

VS: Any goals you want to accomplish in the future ?

BH: During the last 5 years I've been in the Vietnamese music industry I learned a lot about the Vietnamese culture and especially about myself. Like a million of other Vietnamese people I grew up in a foreign country and while there was a cong dong in most of the foreign countries (like in the US) Austria didn't have a lot of Vietnamese people and that' why I didn't have any Vietnamese friends at all. My Vietnamese was so ngo.ng and I didn't know how to write or to read this language, which was supposed to be my FIRST language.I felt so much like an Austrian girl and if someone would have told me by that time that I'm gonna be a Vietnamese singer one day, I think I just would have laughed. Now I am a Vietnamese singer and I noticed that those people who would listen to Vietnamese music and watch video tapes like Paris by Night are usually older people or young people who are "really" Vietnamese. Young people from my generation, who grew up in a foreign country like me wouldn't even pay attention to Vietnamese music, only because they think it's embarassing, nha` que^ or just because it is Vietnamese music ("No comparison to American music"). But what they don't know is that things have changed and that Vietnamese singers have to work very hard, too. We have to come up with our own ideas and since the budget has its own limit we have to take everything into consideration ("can we really afford this??") All I want to say is that time has changed. The question is not "What am I?" anymore but "What can I learn from both cultures?"!!!!The sad history of our country has led us to where we are now -all over the world- but let's put it this way: Each child has the chance to speak at least 2 languages, is more open for other cultures etc. There's no need to turn your back to your second "half". It has always been my goal, my work to come towards to those kids/people, who went through the same like me when I was young. I guess I'm not doing anything different from what my dad did with me before!!

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