I wasn't supposed to be a music artist. But I believe you must live the life you imagine for yourself (& dream BIG). Join me on this journey!

Hmong Women in Music: Tsabmim Xyooj

Welcome to the final week of the Hmong Women in Music celebration!

This next feature is one of the very first Hmong female voices my parents played for me as a child. In almost every home video, her voice can be heard. So today, I like to believe my parents are very proud of me knowing that I interviewed one of their favorite singers of all time.

Tsabmim Xyooj is one of the most popular Hmong female singers of the 90s, most recognized by her indescribable soprano voice. Born and raised in Thailand, since 1992, she's recorded numerous albums with popular songs such as Valentine Kua Muag Poob, Luag Ntxhi Tos Leej Twg, & Peb Lub Tsiab Peb Caug. With a nearly 15-year hiatus from the music scene, Tsabmim Xyooj is back and has so much to share with you.

In this deeply personal interview, I know you will be inspired to live more authentically and become more of who you truly are. Now please, allow me to introduce to you: Tsabmim Xyooj.

SPECIAL NOTE: For this feature, the artist felt her story and experiences would be best expressed and shared through video. Filmed & produced by the artist and her team, you will find a video interview, a transcription, and a translation of the interview below.

Hello TSABMIM! Let’s start off with getting to know you a bit. How would you describe yourself to someone who’s never met you before? Nyob zoo Tsabmim! Cia wb pib tham txog koj thiab koj yog leej twg me ntsis. Yog ib tug tib neeg twg tsis paub koj, koj yuav piav txog koj tus kheej rau nws li cas?

Tsabmim: Thank you, Pagnia. It is a great honor to be chosen as one of the five Hmong women in music for this very important project, to celebrate the life, time and accomplishments of Hmong women in music. To answer this question, I have to go back to the very beginning. First and foremost, I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a Hmong woman, but ultimately I am a child of God. However, with respect to this question, I was a singer from 1992 to 2000. I started singing in Thailand in 1992 and then in 1996 I came to the United States and continued to sing until 2000. 

Ua tsaug rau Pajnyiag, uas koj tseem xam pom thiab xaiv kuv los mus yog 1 tug ntawm 5 tug ntawm pojniam Hmoob kev hu yassuab pajntuag rau lub sijhawm uas tseem ceeb kawg nkaus rau peb cov pojniam hmoob lub neej thiab kev hu yassuab pajntuag rau hnub no. Qhov yuav teb cov lus nug no, kuv yuav tsum tau rov qab mus rau yav tag los ua ntej thaum yuav qhuav pib. Kuv yog ib tug ntxhais: ntawm kuv niam thiab kuv txiv (Npuag Thoj Xyooj), yog ib tug vivncaus: ntawm kuv cov tsevneeg thiab tsoom vivncaus hmoob txhua tus, thiab yog ib leej niam ntawm kuv tus menyuam ntxhais, yog ib tug pojniam hmoob ntawv peb haiv neeg Hmoob, thiab kuv yog ib tug menyuam ntawm Vajtswv. Tsis tas lis ntawv, qhov txhwjxeeb tshaj teb rau lo lus uas koj nug kuv hnub no, kuv yog ib tug navloob Hmoob uas yog Tsabmim Xyooj.

Over 15 years ago, I had the honor to meet you once when you performed in my hometown of Eau Claire, WI. Not only, I’ve seen bits and pieces of who you are through your music as a young listener. I believe you are a very peaceful, friendly, and strong-hearted woman. Who &/or what inspires you to be who you are today? Kaum tsib xyoo dhau los, kuv muaj txoj hmoo ntsib koj ib zaug thaum koj tuaj hu nkauj hauv kuv lub zos Eau Claire, Wisconsin (Zos Dej Tshiab). Tsis tas li, kuv tau mloog koj cov nkauj thiab paub txog koj me ntsis txij thaum kuv me los. Kuv ntseeg tau tias koj yog ib tug neeg coj tus tus, luag ntxhi rau sawv daws, thiab muaj lub siab khov kho. Leej twg los sis tej yam twg tsij koj thiaj muaj tus Tsabmim Xyooj uas nyob ntawm koj hnub no?

Tsabmim: At the time, Mai Moua, the famous singer from Laos, initially inspired me to sing; however it is my mother and father that gave me the strength to follow my dreams because in Thailand, we were very poor and there is no other way to earn money. And I was too tired and lazy to go to the farm and work in the field with my family, and I could not afford to go to school and get an education so singing was the only way I could follow my dreams and not have to work in the farm. 

Lub sij hawm ntawd, muaj ib tug ntxhais hu nkauj uas muaj lub suab zoo nyob nplog teb npe hu Maiv Muas. Nws yog thawj tug navloob ua rau kuv muaj txoj kev npau suav tias tej zaum kuv xav hu nkauj ib yam li nws. Tiamsis, yog hais txog txoj kev ua neej ces yog kuv niam thiab kuv txiv. Lub sijhawm ntawd, txoj kev khwv noj khwv haus nyob Thaibteb tsis yooj yim. Kuv tsev neeg yeej txomnyem tsis muaj nyiaj mus kawm ntawv thiab kuv yeej tub nkeeg ua liaj ua teb thiab. Ces pes hais tias, yog txoj kev txomnyem, kev khwv ua liaj ua teb, tiv tshav tiv nag uas ntsia tsis pom lub neej zoo yog qhov uas tsij kuv kom muaj Tsabmim Xyooj rau hnub no.

Tsabmim Xyooj sharing the stage with Povmeem Hawj.

Tsabmim Xyooj sharing the stage with Povmeem Hawj.

When and how did your music journey begin? Thaum twg koj twb pib hu nkauj los sis kaw nkauj los? Nws pib li cas thiab nyob rau qhov twg?

Tsabmim: Actually, I became a singer by accident. In 1990, I was only 13 years old and because my parents didn’t have money for school, I had stopped going to school. My friend and I was bored so we participated in a dance group for two singers named Khu Vang and Povmeem Hawj, one of the famous old time singers. Unfortunately, something happened and Khu Vang couldn’t go to record an album so Povmeem had two choices: one was my friend and the other was me. My friend was taller and prettier but had a shaky voice, and I was shorter and not as pretty but I had little girl’s voice because I was only 13 years old. Povmeem came to me and showed me Mai Moua’s picture and her cassettes and that if I had the voice and courage to choose this path, that I would be able to become like Mai Moua. So of course, without hesitation, I chose to fill in for the recording, the result was my first album called, Tsis Xav Ua Niam Yau. Shortly afterward, the sponsor came to me and asked to see if I wanted to sing for him for another album. That was it! 

Kuv txoj kev hu nkauj pib thaum kuv muaj 13 xyoo nyob rau lub Zos 1 los hu Zos Dej Txias. Nyob rau xyoo 1987, hauv peb lub zos, tsim tau ib pab band hu ua Phoojywg Roob Siab. Lawv yeej tsim muaj tus ntxhais hu nkauj los nrog tus txivneej hu Povmeem Hawj no hu nkauj uake lawm. Thiab lawv yog cov uas tsim muaj thawj xuv nkauj uas muaj npe hu tias Tsis Xav Ua Niam Yau. Zoo li Vajtswv yeej npaj txoj hauv kev rau kuv los ua ib tug ntxhais hu nkauj tiag tiag thiab. 1990 kuv muaj 13 xyoos, mus ua dancer rau lawv thiab lawv pub kuv hu ib txoj nkauj rau txhua zaus ua peb pab band mus show. 1991 lawv tau npaj mus kaw xuv nkauj ua Tsis Xav Ua Niam Yau tabsis tsis muaj hmoo, tus navloob poj niam tau muaj teebmeem mus kaw tsis tau xuv nkauj lawm. Povmeem Hawj thiaj li nug kuv seb, seb kuv puas nyiam mus kaw xuv nkauj nrog nws thiab? Nws tau nqa Maiv Muas cov nkauj tuaj rau kuv mloog thiab hais rau kuv tias yog kuv muaj peevxwm mus kaw thiab yog kuv lub suab ho zoo thiab, kuv yuav nrov ib yam nkaus li nws, thiab tseem yuav tau nyiaj ntau pab kuv tsev neeg thiab. Kuv zoo siab heev thiab cia li teb kiag tias kam no lawm xwb. Thiaj li tshwm sim muaj thawj xuv nkauj ua yog Tsis Xav Ua Niam Yau uas yog kuv thawj xuv nkauj, thiab tau txais kev txhawb nqa los ntawm tsoom Hmoob coob kawg nkaus nyob rau Thaibteb thiab USA.

You are a world-renown vocal artist in the Hmong music community with hit songs such as “Valentine Kua Muag Poob” and “Luag Ntxhi Tos Leej Twg.” From Burma to France, your music has touched so many people’s hearts over 2+ decades. Why do you think your music and singing has touched people’s heart for over 20 years? Koj yog ib tug nav loob uas Hmoob nyob thoob ntiaj teb paub txog thiab nyiam koj cov nkauj xws li “Valentine Kua Muag Poob” thiab “Luag Ntxhi Tos Leej Twg.” Nyob Burma mus rau Fabkis Teb, koj cov nkauj raug coob leej coob tus tib neeg lub siab tau nees nkaum tawm xyoo no lawm. Koj xav li cas txog koj txoj kev zoo kev vam meej no? Thaum pib, koj puas xav tias nws yuav zoo li no?

Tsabmim: I did not have any formal training on learning how to sing. I started singing songs because I wanted to express my feelings and hardships with the harsh life while living in Thailand. So I had always sung from my heart and feelings, and ultimately, in the end, those feelings have been transferred into my later songs. If you listen to many of my songs, the song is not very smooth, but it is my emotional transfer of the words to make the song come alive. 

Kuv li kev hu nkauj, kuv tsis tau mus kawm tiav los hu, thiab tsis muaj tus cob qhia kuv. Tsuas yog kuv nyiam heev ces kuv hu raws kuv kev peev xwm xwb. Thiab muab txoj kev ua neej nrog tej me hav zoov hav tsuag nyob rau Thaibteb los mus sau thiab seev ua suab hu tawm los ua nkauj xwb. Yog nej mloog kuv cov nkauj ua dhau los, nej yuav paub hais tias tshuav ntau qhov uas kuv hu tsis tau npliag lias li lwm cov neeg hu nkauj professional tiamsis ho hu tau khaub nkaus, raug rau sawvdaws lub siab ua rau kho siab khuav zoo li cov lus ntawv nws muaj sia tuaj tiag tiag thiab.

You have an incredible discography. What is your writing process in making songs come to life? Koj muaj cov nkauj ntau heev li. Koj txoj kev sau nkauj zoo li cas?

Tsabmim: For example, Valentine Kua Muag Poob: one of my best friends had a boyfriend who left her and she was deeply saddened. She went through such a dramatic period in her life and I witnessed the changes in her physical, emotional and mental state that it affected me deeply. I felt what she was feeling and I wrote the song from her perspective. Many of these songs were from personal experiences that I felt at that young age and it compelled me to write it out and to express my true feelings through words, songs, and melody.

Kuv txoj kev sau nkauj feem ntau yog sau los ntawm yam uas tshwm sim muaj tseeb rau lwm tus los yog yus tu kheej.  Xws lis txoj Valentine Kua Muag Poob, Valentine yuav tsum yog kev sib hlub, kev zoo siab xwb. Tiamsis ua cas thiaj sau txoj nkauj tu siab li ntawv?

Vim yog kuv ib phoojywg uas muaj txoj kev hlub timsis ho raug tso ua rau nws raug txoj kev tu siab thiab mob heev, pom nws zaum ib leeg saib nkawv tej duab uas tau thaij tseg ua kua muag ntws nto lawm tsheej tsam, tsis nco qab lub caij lub nyoog li. Kuv thiaj li tau muab nws txoj kev mob siab los sau ua nkauj hu.

You have taken almost A 15-year hiatus from the music world. Every fan in the world wants to know, what happened to you and why have you have chosen to come back to the Hmong music industry today? koj tau ncaim peb tau li 15 lub xyoos no. koj cov fans xav paub, koj ua dabtsi lawm thiab yog vim li cas koj thiaj txiav txim siab rov los kaw nkauj, hu nkauj rau peb tsoom hmoob tamsis no?

Tsabmim: I left the limelight of the Hmong music world to become a wife and a mother at the peak of my singing career. In 1999, I got married and shortly after I had a beautiful daughter. It was supposed to be the happiest time of my life, but unfortunately, it wasn’t. It was a struggle both as a young wife and a mother. I went through a dark period at this stage of my life. I suffered just like many countless other Hmong sisters that had a bad marriage. After two long years of marriage, I decided to get a divorce. It took another 5 years to finalize my divorce. During and after my divorce, I was just drained, emotionally and mentally exhausted and I wanted to shut my door to the Hmong community as well as the music world. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the Hmong community and I wanted to live in peace. However, because of what I went through during my marriage and my divorce, I had shut my door on many other aspects of my life including my passion for music and singing.

It was especially difficult for me because my parents and families were in Thailand. I couldn’t just run to my parents for help like many Hmong sisters. I also grew up in Thailand and I didn’t have an American education so it was extremely difficult for me. I felt lost like a child in a unwanted foreign land. My heart and soul was in Thailand with my family but I was living here in the US. It was through loving friends that helped me survive and overcome many obstacles in my life. It was God who saw that I needed help and He led those precious people into my life and helped me in every aspect of my life including helping me to raise my daughter who is now 16 years old. I was saved by the grace of God and His love led me to “cocoon” for many years. It took me a very long time to recover from this traumatic experience and that is why I am here today. During this period in my life, I learned many things; however, three things that helped shaped my life to be who I am today: that God was All-loving and He had given me this gift for me to share it with the world and therefore my mission in life is still not done. He had only sharpened and toughened my heart and soul and now it was time for that butterfly to fly out of that cocoon and spread its wings because He still had plans for me.

Lessons Learned

"He had only sharpened and toughened my heart and soul and now it was time for that butterfly to fly out of that cocoon and spread its wings because He still had plans for me."
-Tsabmim Xyooj

Vim yog txoj kev txij nkawm, kuv tau tso txoj kev hu nkauj no tseg rau xyoo 1999. Kuv tau txiav tsim siab mus ua ib tug niam tsev, ib leej niam rau menyuam thiab npaj siab yuav ua lub neej kom xws li lwm tus pojniam txoj kev ntshaw uas muaj ib tug txiv nrog rau menyuam kom kaj siab lug xwb. Tiamsis tsis muaj txoj hmoo zoo. Yam uas kuv ntshaw, nws tsis zoo li lub siab xav. Muaj kev nyuaj siab ntxhov plawv, kev ceeblaj, txomnyem, kev ntshai los zuj zus rau kuv lub neej.  Thaum kawg kuv thiaj tau txiav txim siab tso txojkev txij nkawm tseg, sib nrauj, zoo li lwm tus thiab. Kuv tau siv 5 lub xyoo nkaus los daws tej teebmeem kev sib nrauj thiaj li tiav. Nyob rau lub sijhawm ntawd kuv txoj kev sibyuav, los txog ntua rau txoj kev sibnrauj, kuv tau tawm tsam nrog txoj kev tsaus ntuj nti, kev txomnyem hauv lub siab lub ntsws txomnyem fab nyiaj txiag, txomnyem lub chaw nyob chaw pw, txomnyem chaw sablaj.

Vim yog kuv tsev neeg tag nrho nyob sab ntuj tim ub, tsis muaj ib tug tuaj nyob rau tim no, kuv mus nrhiav tsis tau txoj kev pab ua rau kuv qaug zog heev. Vim kuv tsis paub ntawv, tsis paub lus, kuv zoo ib yam li tug menyuam uas poob rau ib lub havzoov pos huab niab xwb, tsis pom qab mus qhov twg li. Kuv lam nyob tebchaws no, tiamsis kuv txoj kev xav thiab tus ntsuj nplig tseem yog nyob rau sab tim ub xwb. Vim kuv tsis muaj ib lub chaw vam khom uas khov kho nyob rau tim no, kuv thiaj tau kaw kuv lub qhov rooj, ntawm txoj kev hu yassuab, tsis xav mus koom txoos nrog kwvtij neej tsa hmoob qhov twg li lawm. Nyob ib leeg ntsiag to nrog kuv tus menyuam thiab los mus nrhiav txoj kev kaj siab ntawm Vajtswv lawm xwb. Qhov kuv los nrhiav Vajtswv, ua rau kuv paub thiab nkag siab ntau yam. Vajtswv txoj kev hlub los ntawm kuv cov phoojywg thiab pawg ntseeg, uas tau txhawb kuv zog los txog rau tamsim no kuv ntseeg hais tias Vajtswv tsim peb los ua neej rau lub ntiaj teb no, Nws muab ib txoj koob hmoov, thiab txoj haujlwm rau peb txhua tus los ua kom tiav. Kuv txoj haujlwm tseem tsis tau tiav. Nws muab kuv hloov thiab hliav kuv kom zoo li no. Hnub no, kuv thiaj xav rov qab muab txoj koob hmoov thiab yam uas kuv txawj no, rov qab los ua kom tiav li kuv txoj kev npau suav pub rau peb ib tsoom Hmoob. 

After many years of creating music, you decided to record songs of faith for the Hmong Christian community. What was the transition like and the response from your fans? Were there challenges that you faced? Twb tau ntau lus xyoos koj tau kaw nkauj, koj mam txiav txim siab kaw nkauj Hmoob Christian. Thaum koj pib kaw nkauj Hmoob Christian, nws zoo li cas thiab koj cov fans xav li cas? Puas muaj tej yam twg nyuaj?

Tsabmim: It was during this time that I turned to Christian music because of my faith and the good people I’ve met at my church. Both Christians and non-Christians alike have criticized me but personally, I feel that Christian songs are songs to honor and praise God just as we honor our mother and father here on earth. Christian songs are songs about brotherly love and love for our parents and savior. Mainstream or love songs are all about romantic love which can cover a wide variety of topics but ultimately, it can help to strengthen us when we are weak and alone. Because we all need love in our lives, any type of message regarding love is great for the soul. As God’s message to all of us, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Muaj ntau tus uas yog Christian thiab non-Christian tsis nyiam thiab tsis txhawb nqa, tus yuav xav li cas los muaj. Tiamsis rau ntawm kuv tus kheej, kuv totaub tias txoj kev uas, hu nkauj qhuas Vajtswv, yog hu los qhuas thiab pehawm yus tus Tswv uas tsim yus los, thiab foom koob hmoov, tsom kav tsom kwm yus lub neej, es yus yuav tau hwm thiab hu nkauj qhuas Nws ua Nws tsaug. Ib yam li peb niaj hnub hais lus ua tsaug rau peb niam thiab peb txiv, uas nkawv yog tus yug peb thiab tu peb hlob, es tsim nyog peb yuav hwm thiab qhuas nkawv lub txiajntsim. Kev hu nkauj rau ntiajteb los yog nkauj sib hlub mas nws nthuav dav dav, nyob ntawm tus uas nws xav mus li cas, ces nws tsim nws cov nkauj mus raws li ntawv. Yassuab pajnruag, yog ib yam muaj nuj nqis rau peb txoj kev ua neej; muaj peevxwm kho, thiab txhawb tau tibneeg lub zog, kom muaj txoj kev cia siab. Vim peb txhua tus tibneeg, txhua txhia lub neej puav leej ntshaw txoj kev hlub, yog yus txawj siv yus lub tswvyim mus rau qhov zoo, kom muaj nuj nqi ces puav leej zoo tag nrho. Vim Vajtswv lub dejsiab yog xav kom peb muaj kev sib hlub sib raug zoo xwb.

You have been creating beautiful music for fans for many decades. What does a singer need to know in order to stay in the music industry for a long time? Koj sau tau nkauj rau coob leej coob tus tau mloog tau ntau lus xyoos no. Ib tug nav loob, yog nws xav hu nkauj ntev li koj, nws yuav tsum muaj los sis paub dabtsi thiaj li hu nkauj ntev?

Tsabmim: In the old days, we didn’t have statistics and demographic studies so we sang from our heart. First of all, you have to have a good voice. There are many people that have great voices, but having a great voice is not enough. A person must have experienced life and hardship so they can sing from experience and be able to transfer these emotions through the lyrics and be able to touch directly to another person’s heart and soul.

Yav nram ntej mas tsis muaj kev vammeej txaus, yog tus twg hu tau nkauj thiab dhos music xwb ces twb tias zoo lawm. Nim no nws txawv lawm, muaj tib neeg coob txawj hu nkauj tag tiamsis tu es yuav hu tau nkauj ntev, tus ntawd yuav tsum muaj tswv yim seev suab kom txoj nkauj ntawd nws ciaj sia xav mus raug rau lwm tus lub siab. 

What is one of the proudest moments you’ve ever had as a female artist? Koj yog ib tug poj niam nav loob, ntawm txhua yam koj tau ua, yam twg koj ua ua rau koj zoo siab tshaj plaws?

Tsabmim: The proudest moments in my singing career is when a person tells me that my songs have touched them in their life, in ways that have given them hope and strength and has healed their pain and broken heart. There have been many people that have approached me throughout the years and have revealed that certain songs have made them shed tears of joy, of pain, of struggle and sorrow but through it all, it has healed their grieving hearts. 

Yam uas ua rau kuv zoo siab tshaj ntawm txoj kev hu nkauj hauv kuv lub neej yog thaum muaj ib tug neeg hais rau kuv hais tias kuv txoj kev hu nkauj txhawb tau nws lub zog, hloov tau nws lub neej zoo mus rau ib theem. Yeej muaj ntau zaus es sawv daws hais tuaj tias kuv cov nkauj txhawb lawm lub zog los yog raug lawv lub siab thiab lawv kua muag poob thaum mloog kuv cov nkauj. Qhov kuv zoo siab vim hais tias yog lawv muaj peevxwm poob tau lub kua muag, ces twb txhais hais tias kuv cov nkauj twb mus kho lawv lub siab zoo lawm.

What are you currently working on? What do you want to accomplish with the next phase of your life/career? Koj ua dabtsi tam sis no? Koj xav ua kom tau dabtsi rau yav pem suab nyob hauv koj lub neej los sis koj txoj kev hu nkauj?

Tsabmim: I have just started a new company called Tsabmim Xyooj International Entertainment Services. We will provide music, voice, and singing lessons & many other services. Please check out our website, Tsabmim.com.

For my singing career, I am currently working on a new album; it is not yet completed but I am very excited because it is something a little bit different from what I have done before. I don’t really know what to expect after all these years. I don’t know what my fans are expecting; however, I will just sing the songs that I like and that it touches my heart and hope it still resonates with my fans. I hope that my fans will continue to support me in this next phase of my life and career.

Additionally, I am working with Yellow Diamond Records and their great team of emerging artists for my next three albums. I feel that Yellow Diamond Records has done very well within the last few years and they have a great lineup of special artists and they are very good at what they do, which is producing great music for the Hmong people.

Tamsim no, kuv tseem tab tom npaj tsim lub business hu ua Tsabmim International Entertainment Services. Peb muaj ib lub tsev kawm yassuab uas peb qhia cov tub ntxhais kom txawj hu nkauj zoo es mus ua tau ib tug navloob. Peb muaj lwm yam service nyob rau peb qhov website thiab.

Tsis tag li ntawd, kuv pom tias Yellow Diamond Records yog ib lub tuam txhab ua haujlwm tau quality rau kev hu nkauj yassuab pajnruag. Kuv tseem tabtom koom nrog Yellow Diamond Records ua nkauj uake. Peb npaj siab hais tias peb yuav ua kom muaj ib xuv nkauj tawm tshiab sai sai no.

Tseg ntev lawm, kuv tsis hais tias kuv cov fan nej txoj kev nyiam mloog nkauj mus zoo licas lawm. Tabsis, kuv npaj hais tias xuv nkauj tshiab no yuav yog ib xuv ua nkauj uas yuav zoo tshaj yav tag los thiab yuav raug nej txhua leej txhua tus lub siab.

Finally, in your own words, finish the sentence...Thaum kawg no, ntxiv lus rau kab nram no...

You can follow me at...Hauv Internet, koj nrhiav kuv tau ntawm no...

Tsis yog hais txog ntawm txoj kev hu nkauj xwb, koj zaj dab neeg yog ib zaj tseem ceeb ntawm peb cov poj niam hmoob lub neej. Ua tsaug ntau, Tsabmim! 

Are you inspired? I truly meant what I wrote earlier. I hope Tsabmim Xyooj's interview moved you to live more authentically and to become more of who you really are. She is an inspiration and I am honored to feature her during the Hmong Women in Music celebration.

YOUR TURN! Do you have any special words or a warm memory to share about Tsabmim and/or her music? Join the celebration by leaving a comment below!

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