Over the last few years we have heard about overloaded boats on their way to Europe in search of a better life. The images are unsettling and remind some of us who are old enough of another wave of “boat people” seeking a better life.
Among those people who ended up in Canada was a young boy from Vietnam. Huu Bac’s family settled in Quebec where he eventually studied music at McGill University.
While his primary instrument was the jazz guitar, he became interested in the dan bau, a traditional one-stringed instrument of Vietnam.
His studies continued and he added more traditional instruments, notably a traditional flute of the Andes called the quena, and the erhu — or Chinese fiddle.
His musical adventures include playing with Cirque de Soleil and composing for festivals in Europe.
When he put together his quintet, he wanted to blend eastern and western music and his performance last Friday evening in Smithers was an incredible demonstration of how that goal has grown and thrived.
Using those traditional instruments, he may be the centerpiece of the performance, but he gave plenty of time for the other four members to demonstrate their musical abilities at the show put on by the Bulkley Valley Concert Association.
“I got involved in the world music scene. I’ve always been a music lover and I went back to my roots but after that any music that moves me I want to play,” he said.
“I always try to listen to different types of music, the timeless feeling and the feeling that is not geographically specific. With the music that moves me, I can feel the period that it was written in.”
The music he and his group played was certainly moving the audience who listened with great interest.
Like many performers he gave us some insight into his background and how he came to be interested and proficient in such a range of instruments.
“As an artist, I want to tell my life story as honestly as I can. It’s not up to me to play traditional music. It’s not my story,” he said.
It might not be a traditional style, but it certainly is his own story taking from all over the world and putting that experience together into a unique, perhaps very Canadian, style.
The Bulkley Valley Concert Association’s next show is Jan. 18 with Roy and Rosemary featuring Codey Karey, described as virtuoso piano and violin with soaring vocals.