Vietnam Chante revolutionary songs, Paris, France, c1967

When I wrote recently about the book Cultures of Independence that I found in Cambodia some years ago, it was the Khmer pop record covers that intrigued me so it seemed a kind of fate that I would stumble into a cluttered collectibles shop two weeks ago near the Place des Vosges in Paris and find this album of Vietnamese revolutionary songs.  Produced by the Union des Etudiants Vietnamiens en France, it is staunchly pro-revolution and feels like an artifact from an era long, long gone.  I date it to about 1967, but this only by process of elimination; it might have been earlier.  The shop owner played bits of it for me, dropping the needle on the record at random, and the sound that came out ranged wildly from Vietnamese folk songs to martial chants to what sounded like opera.

Despite — or, perhaps, precisely because — the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 marked the end of its status as a great power, the French Left always had a soft spot for Asian revolutionaries like Ho Chi Minh (who was, himself, once an étudiant vietnamien in Paris) and Mao Tse-tung.  Sometimes this affection bordered on caricature, as with the opera-singing peasantry on this record.  Or witness, for example, this improbable little pop ditty about napalm by Claude Channes from the 1967 film La Chinoise by Jean-Luc Godard:


Leave a Reply