The First Time I Met This Hmong Artist, I Cried.
You will not realize an artist’s impact on you until you meet him.
Seven years ago this month, I was invited to the Festival Hmong: Tsiab Ntuj Sov event in Villebon-sur-Yvette, France as a guest singer.
Unbeknownst to me, an all-time favorite Hmong music artist of mine was to perform on the same stage that night. It made sense; he’s Hmoob Fabkis and I am in his home country.
When I was told, I remember being calm, happy, & simply focused on my performance. You know -- no biggie.
Ly Dang, Lis Ntaj is his name.
Ly Dang’s soothing, countertenor voice and beautifully crafted love songs filled the soundtrack of my childhood. My parents and oldest sister, Nancy played music by him and his colleagues (Ly Ntxheb & Ly Yeng of Xanakee) on a daily basis. I knew the lyrics before I knew the title of their songs. And I loved their music more than I could express it.
The evening party of Festival Hmong: Tsiab Ntuj Sov had started. I could hear people entering Le Grand Dôme and talking amongst themselves. One MC spoke in French, another in Hmong. I wasn’t up yet, but was seated alone backstage, getting myself mentally prepared for a once-in-a-lifetime performance. I was in France after all.
From the corner of my eye, I saw people moving backstage, making way for someone. An individual appeared to be heading to a dressing room while carrying a garment bag over its head.
“Focus, Pagnia. You’ve got a performance here.”
I turned my body away, took a deep breath, and refocused as the crowd got louder. It felt like no more than five minutes had passed.
“Nyob zoo, Pajnyiag. Kuv yog Lis Ntaj.”
I looked up and saw a hand stretched out before me. Ly Dang was right in front of me.
I’m not sure what I did or what I said. But tears began to roll down my face...profusely. It was so bad, I could've started hyperventilating if I didn’t control it.
And I couldn’t. Something came over me.
I apologized to him while wiping my endless tears and thinking about how sorry I was because my make up artist, Pa Kou would need to reapply my make up.
At the same time, I wanted him to know that no words could express my love and appreciation for his music. And so it was expressing itself right now, uncontrollably, in the form of tears. Tears of complete love and appreciation.
It’s been seven years since that night in France. I don’t remember the exact conversation I had with Ly Dang. But I definitely know the impact his music has made on my life since I was a little girl.
So, to Ly Dang:
Yog muaj txoj hmoo koj nyeem txog kuv tsab blog no, kuv vam thiab cia siab tias koj tseem noj qab nyob zoo. Tom qab ntsib koj, kuv rov mus vaj mus tsev nco txog kuv tsev neeg Hmoob uas nyob Fabkis Teb nrog rau lub sijhawm tshwj xeeb xya xyoo dhau los uas tau txoj hmoo ntsib koj uas yog kuv ib tug qauv zoo rau txoj kev hu nkauj. Tu siab peb tsis tau nyob ua ke ntev tiam sis kuv cia siab tias peb yuav rov qab sib ntsib, tau hu nkauj ua ke, thiab sib pom dua. Koj cov fans nrog rau kuv uas nyob thoob ntiaj teb tseem cia siab heev tias peb yuav tau rov qab hnov koj lub suab thiab koj cov nkauj. Ua tsaug rau koj cov nkauj uas tau cawm, tau pab, thiab tau kho peb lub neej. Nyob zoo koj nawb mog.
YOUR TURN! Are you a fan of Ly Dang? What memories do you have with his beautiful music? As always, please leave a comment below!