Discovering Hanoi’s Alleys

As my husband and I complete our tenth visit to Hanoi in the past twelve years, we are still finding new nooks and crannies everywhere we go in this fascinating city. We enjoy our time here as artistic advisors to the Hanoi New Music Ensemble, and we are especially proud of the ensemble’s recent concert performed for almost 1,000 attendees!

In addition to our musical activity, our wonderful Vietnamese friends make certain that we experience their favorite places — endless street stalls, restaurants and cafes. No matter how many times we return, we make new discoveries everywhere. What is difficult for most visitors is the opportunity to enjoy local places because many of these special places are located in small alleyways that connect the beautiful tree-lined boulevards.

“What’s Next?” in Asian Creative Music

One of the joys of travel is meeting new people, especially when we share friends in common. Before arriving in Vietnam to begin our 2019 concerts with the Hanoi New Music Ensemble, my husband Jeff and I decided to visit Singapore and Thailand to meet some of their composers and contemporary music leaders. I am pleased to report that creativity in Asian contemporary music is thriving and exciting.

With introductions from our Vietnamese colleagues, Facebook and emails facilitated quick connections. Luckily musicians love to eat, so our conversations also included local food as well as introductions to music and cultural institutions.

Cultural Creativity in the Straits of Malacca

Peranakan? I was not familiar with this ethnic community and was immediately curious to learn more about this unique culture on display in Singapore and Malaysia. Centuries of intermarriage between Malay and Chinese led to a delicious cuisine, unique dress, and distinctive architecture. Please place the accent on the second syllable of Peranakan!

As my husband and I travel in Southeast Asia prior to our next installment as Artistic Advisors to the Hanoi New Music Ensemble, we are meeting composers and musicians throughout the area. We began our current trip in a part of the world that became central to the world economy many centuries ago.

Colors of Oaxaca

Oaxaca state in southern Mexico has a unique spirituality that is expressed in its colors and crafts. Possibly the most authentic part of Mexico, numerous indigenous people gather in the city of Oaxaca, located where three mountain ranges meet. The native cuisine, embroidered clothing, colonial architecture, pre-columbian archeological sites and artisanal crafts reflect this melding of ancient cultures.

On a recent visit, the city’s energy and culture grab you immediately. You hear languages that go back millennia, eat foods that are grown in hundreds of surrounding villages, and see everyday clothing that expresses its heritage through colorful embroidery.

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