Viet Nam News
Internationally-acclaimed Belgian singer Axelle Red performed in Việt Nam from March 18 to 20 as part of her Asian tour, which presented the greatest hits of her 25-year career.
Adored by the Francophone public, the committed artist has also been an advocate for children and women as a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF Belgium since 1997.
She talks with Vương Bạch Liên about her music career and her attachment to Việt Nam.
Is it your first time in Việt Nam?
It is my first concert in Việt Nam but it’s my fifth visit here. The first time was in 1992. We were in Thailand for holidays and then we had a friend who knew someone working in the French embassy. At that moment, it was almost impossible for me to come to Việt Nam, because the country was still closed to foreign tourists.
But we had the occasion to come for 5 days. We couldn’t travel a lot, we just visited HCM City and Vũng Tàu, but I fell in love immediately with the country.
After this first visit, I came back here several times. I could see lot of changes taking place. When I first came, everyone rode bikes. Now everyone rides a scooter.
With my different trips, I was able to discover many regions of Việt Nam. We even took a car from HCM City to Vũng Tàu to take part in a wedding of a friend there. However, I could only stay for a very short time each visit, and I haven’t even gotten to see the beautiful Hạ Long Bay. I was frustrated, but I’ll surely come back because I absolutely have to see Hạ Long Bay.
Until now, not many artists of your global prestige have come to Việt Nam to perform. Why did you decide to hold concerts here?
Because Việt Nam is wonderful, because I love the country and its people.
For this tour in Asia, we have in total ten concerts in Hong Kong, Laos, Cambodia, Bangkok, Brunei, Singapore and Việt Nam. We have three concerts in Việt Nam, more than in these other countries.
I know that there is not much left of the Francophone culture in Việt Nam, because French language has become less important. When I come here, I hope that I can perform to many Vietnamese people.
You are born in a Flemish speaking region of Belgium. But during your 25 year career, you have almost always performed and composed songs in French. Why?
Even though French is not my maternal language, I have spoken it since I was young. And I find it very beautiful! At the beginning of my career, I sang in English because my music is much inspired by American music.
To sing in French was at first a chance, unexpected thing. Because I love this language, I’ve written many poems in French since I was very young. And then I tried to write one song, and then two songs, and then an album in French. I’ve never thought of composing songs in Flemish.
Composing songs in French has become less and less difficult for me. I am composing my ninth album. At the beginning, I was listening very often to songs in English. But because of that, I took more and more pleasure to write in French. I find that this language has very beautiful words, and I simply have to select them well to create beautiful lyrics.
You are not only a singer and a composer, but also you have been a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF Belgium since 1997. Could you explain why you decided to take that role?
In fact, I studied law at university. But I almost never worked as lawyer; I was lawyer for only three weeks! I am very glad to pursue my music career.
But if I hadn’t chose music as my career, I would have defended human rights causes.
What really incited me to think of defending human causes was my first trip to Viet Nam. I was shocked when I first came here: I discovered a magnificent and pure country. But if it was so pure, it was so because it was still closed. So when I came here, I have the feeling that I stole something here. One time, walking on the street, I met a little boy who was selling postcards. I had bought lot of postcards before, and when he invited me to buy his postcards, I refused, saying that I could not buy for everyone, “I am not rich”. At that time, I was a student with my backpack. But the boy told me: “You are rich, you came by airplane”. And I told myself “he is right.” And I find that people cannot come to a country and only take advantage of its culture, the kindness of its people and the beauty of the country. They have to give something back. And since then, I’ve wanted to do something to help children. — VNS