Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Music/Sound 2020

Ngoc Dai

Portrait of Ngoc Dai dressed in a black shirt and black framed square glasses.
  • 2020 Grants to Artists
  • Music/Sound
  • Composer
  • Born 1953, Ha Nam, Vietnam
  • Lives in Hanoi, Vietnam

$20,000 has been spent during 2020 for my living and working expenses, paying salary for two artists [who work] with me, and also to cover the recording studio fees. The remaining $20,000 will cover the expenses in 2021 for my new album.

- Ngoc Dai, December 21, 2020

Artist Statement

In order to find a new musical language and new forms for songs, I had to deny the official environment of the Vietnamese Government.

My goals are:

Break the prejudices about musical aesthetic;

Mock the taboo in the language of music.

My attitude is not to compromise in any way.

- December 2019


Ngoc Dai is a composer whose works are influenced by the events he witnessed as a soldier during the Vietnamese-American War, and are deeply critical of the socio-political context in Vietnam. He sings with a unique style, evoking the northern Vietnamese folksongs that are based on chanson music.

After studying composition at the Hanoi Conservatory from 1977 to 1983, Dai felt disillusioned with the national Communist Party system’s influence on musical practice, and decided to develop his own distinctive musical style without political interference.

In 2009 Dai performed with the band Dai Lam Linh at the Hanoi Opera House and released the album Dai Lam Linh. Since then, he has continued his career as a solo artist, releasing the album Thang Mo 1 in 2012, which presents songs accompanied by piano and viola. He was subsequently convicted by the Vietnamese authorities due to the album’s overly sexual lyrics and his questioning of the legitimacy of the single-party communist state.

Dai has performed works from his solo albums at the TPAM – Performing Arts Meeting in Yokoyama, Japan in 2017 and at the Migration Music Festival in Taipei, Taiwan, in 2019. He was nominated for Best Composer at the fourth Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong (2011). Dai holds an M.A. from the National Music Conservatory of Vietnam in Hanoi.

An orchestra and some performers on the floor, perform on a stage with a black background adorned with three aligned brown wooden parchments hanging from the ceiling.
Dai Lim Linh in performance at Hanoi Opera House, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2009. Performers: Ngoc Dai, Tuan, Quoc Hung, Linh Dung, Thai Ho, Van Khue, Minh, Thuy, Than Lam, Son X, Mai, Nam, Manh Hung.
Cay nu tu, performed by Dai Lam Linh, at Hanoi Opera House, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2009.