The stepped rice terraces of the Hmong village of La oán tẩn are as beautiful as any photograph you might find of Vietnam. These rice paddies belong to local families and are passed down through generations and have been for hundreds of years.
We're in this village to find a singer. Hmong people have their own style of singing which is unique to their culture. After a short while searching we are lucky to find a young man called Su who speaks English. We ask him if he knows anyone who can sing, but he explains that everyone is out working in the terraces. So we ride to the terraces.
This is where we meet Lù thị vang, a rice farmer and mother of four children. At first, she seems a bit shy but her friends and family encourage her and she agrees to a recording. We set up on the rice terrace, it's October and the end of the rice harvest, and in the distance, people are still working, hitting the rice stalks repeatedly to make the grains fall out.
Lù thị vang is wearing traditional handmade clothes made from indigo-dyed hemp. Covered in symbolic patterns applied by batik with appliqué details. The community make their own clothes and the symbols have meaning relating to a person's stage of their life. Around her neck are three silver necklaces, for Hmong, these traditional necklaces are linked to a families wealth and every woman will have a set.
Lù thị vang sings a song is about the love of a couple: when a girl gets married and expresses her feelings of having to leave home and get married. The melody of the song rises and falls and then repeats. We learn that most Hmong songs start in the same way, but most of the words are improvised.
As it starts to rain, the farmers in the field begin to head home. Lù thị vang stops her singing abruptly and with a hand wave which tells us that is all for now and we climb the steep banks of the rice terraces back to the road to find a place to shelter.
It would be remiss of us to have favourites here on the channel. But there's no denying the pleasing tonal qualities of Hmong singing, and we find this recording very special indeed.
Written by Alex Blogg
Film Produced by Oliver Burton
Film Directed by Alex Blogg