ABOUT THIS BOOK
Sad songs and love songs. For Vietnamese refugees who fled Vietnam after the 1975 takeover by the Viet Cong, the predominant music of choice falls into these two general categories rather than any particular musical genre. In fact, Adelaida Reyes discovers, music that exiles call "Vietnamese music" -- that is, music sung in Vietnamese and almost exclusively written before 1975 -- includes such varied influences as Western rock, French-derived valse, Latin chacha, tango, bolero, an d paso doble.
The Vietnamese refugee experience calls attention to issues commonly raised by migration: the redefinition of group relations, the reformulation of identity, and the reconstruction of social and musical life in resettlement. Fifteen years ago, Adelaida Reyes began doing fieldwork on the musical activities of Vietnamese refugees. She entered the emotion-driven world of forced migrants through expressive culture; learned to see the lives of refugee-resettlers through the music they made and enjoyed; and, in turn, gained a deeper understanding of their music through knowledge of their lives.
In Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free, Reyes brings history, politics, and decades of research to her study of four resettlement communities, including refugee centers in Palawan and Bataan; the early refugee community in New Jersey; and the largest of all Vietnamese communities -- Little Saigon, in southern California's Orange County.
Looking closely at diasporic Vietnamese in each location, Reyes demonstrates that expressive culture provides a valuable window into the refugee experience. Showing that Vietnamese immigrants deal with more than simply a new country and culture in these communities, Reyes considers such issues as ethnicity, socio-economic class, and differing generations. She considers in her study music of all kinds -- performed and recorded, public and private -- and looks at music as listened to and performed by all age groups, including church music, club music, and music used in cultural festivals. Moving from traditional folk music to elite and modern music and from the recording industry to pirated tapes. Reyes looks at how Vietnamese in exile struggled, in different ways, to hold onto a part of their home culture and to assimilate into their new, most frequently American, culture.
Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free will attract the attention of readers in Asian American studies, Asian studies, music, and ethnomusicology.