A Song from Prison

Published July 6, 2015 in Episode 11

Music has always played a significant role in political activism, and in recent years, musicians in Việt Nam have increasingly released music in line with the times, bolstering the spirit of protesters.

Since its release in 2013, a particular song has been sung and heard around the world. Trả Lại Cho Dân, or Return to the People, has become a sort of anthem for the many oppressed.

This song gained popularity with its brazen lyrics,demanding rights for the Vietnamese people, which serves as a contrast to traditionally state-approved media. But another part of what makes this song so intriguing is its mysterious origin.

In 2013, the lyrics were sent to Trúc Hồ, producer of Asia Productions, to record and promote. The Asia production team set it to music and had some of their top singers perform it.

In one interview by Saigon Broadcasting Television Network (SBTN), Trúc Hồ explains that the lyrics were sent to him from Việt Nam, and were said to have been written by an anonymous political prisoner. Duy Quốc Nam is the alias of the unknown lyricist.

He explains that it is a true collaboration, with lyrics originating in Việt Nam combined with the voices of Vietnamese singers overseas. The making of the song symbolizes a common, unifying dream- the dream of basic human rights for all.

Some people believe that the anonymous imprisoned composer is famous singer, songwriter Võ Minh Trí, who goes by the stage name, Việt Khang. In 2011, Vietnamese authorities arrested Việt Khang and Trần Vũ Anh Bình, another composer, because the songs they had written to denounce the Vietnamese government had become popular on the web .

Việt Khang had written two smash hits, called “Anh là ai?” which roughly translates to “Who are you?” and “Việt Nam tôi đâu” or “Where is my Việt Nam?” The songs criticized the communist regime for supporting China’s encroachment of Vietnamese territory.  

Việt Khang and Trần Vũ Anh Bình are currently still in prison.

Despite its unknown lyricist, the song has resonated with Vietnamese people all around the world, reminding us  of the power of unity and collaboration.