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Pham Duc Thanh

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Pham Duc Thanh is a world-renowned musician known for his masterful ability on the Vietnamese one-stringed instrument (Dan Bau). He was born in 1958 in Ninh Binh, Vietnam. His talent was fully apparent from his youth: he was adept at the Chèo drumming style at age 4, he learned the mandolin at age 5, and he had begun playing Dan Bau (monochord) and Dan Nhi (2-string fiddle) at the age of 5. In 1974, Duc-Thanh left Hanoi to join the largest Cheo opera troupe in Vietnam and officially became a professional Dan Bau performer.

At the end of 1978 he was the only Dan Bau musician of the Cheo opera stage to attend the national Dan Bau competition of Vietnam in Hanoi; soon after, he went to Saigon to study further the music of central and southern Vietnam. In October 1983, he graduated with top honors from the Center for Musical Research of Vietnam. It was here that he became recognized as one of the rising musicians on Dan Bau in traditional as well as modern music.

He and his family moved to Canada in 1996. Today, he is an adored performer in Montreal. Beyond the traditional music of Vietnam, he has used the Dan Bau to integrate seamlessly with the sounds and rhythms of various ethnic sounds from around the world, following in the words of the poet Van Tien Le:

“One string with all words light and heavy
Half a gourd containing a world of sound.”

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