With deep roots in the Vietnamese countryside and a laser focus that flows from his martial arts discipline, Nguyen Ngoc Khánh's music vibrates with a penetrating spiritual power that opens doors to other worlds.
The first studio recordings of Khánh's music were released as Fire in the Lake on the nonprofit Earthville Music label in August 2007. As these recordings represent the first time Khánh's music has ever been available for the world to hear in recorded form, it was important both to Khánh and to his producer, Mark Moore, to capture the performances as authentically as possible, with all their raw energy and wild beauty, and without too much modern polish. All the songs were recorded live (no overdubs) and minimal equipment was used. Most of the performers were from Khánh's family (with the notable exceptions of guest appearances from the renowned Hô Hoái Anh on monochord and Thanh Dan on zither).
Music from Fire in the Lake will be featured in the upcoming short film, LOTUS & LIGHTNING, currently in production for a late 2007 release. Proceeds from both the CD and the film will support village development projects in Vietnam, as well as supporting music and the arts.
To listen to the music online or buy the CD, click here.
Nguyen Ngoc Khánh is an award-winning folk musician, acclaimed as a "national treasure" in his home country of Vietnam for his virtuosic performances on the kèn (a reed instrument similar to the Indo-Persian shehnai). He also plays the Sino-Vietnamese two-stringed violin and a variety of flutes and other wind instruments.
Khánh was born in 1956 in Duong Coc village in Hatay Province, about an hour from Hanoi. His father, Nguyen Ngoc Binh, is a well-known musician in his own right and was Khánh's first music teacher, who taught and instilled a love and reverence for traditional music and for the powers of nature, as expressed through both music and martial arts.
In 1968, during the American War, when Khánh was a secondary school student, the Tuong Classical Theater Troupe number 5 moved to an air-raid shelter in Duong Coc village and commenced teaching music from the Tuong to the villagers. At twelve years old, this was Khánh's first formal introduction to classical Vietnamese music and the birth of his life-long passion for the ken.
From 1972 until graduation in 1976, Khánh attended the Viet Nam School of Art and Theatre studying ken and traditional music and graduated at the top of his class. He then worked for several years for a regional Tuong group until in 1983 he became a primary musician for the Central Tuong Theatre Troupe. In 1992, at the National Competition for Traditional Music in Da Nang, Khánh was awarded a gold medal for his transcendental interpretation of one of Vietnam's most beloved traditional songs, "Du Xuan." He is known widely in Vietnam as "Khánh of the Kèn."
Khánh lives in Hanoi with his wife and children, performing and teaching music and making and repairing bamboo flutes. He performs regularly in the Tuong Classical Theatre and the Hanoi Water Puppet Theatre, and occasionally performs internationally.
*Note: In Vietnamese custom, the family name comes first; thus, "Nguyen" is his family name and "Khánh" is his given name.