Awakening the soul with the left hand: narration and healing in Vietnam’s diasporic traditional music

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Vietnamese musicians engage with the concept of tâm hồn, or “soul,” to express an inner experience for external understanding and community building. Following the traumas of the twentieth century, inner experiences of Vietnamese in diaspora became difficult to articulate. To overcome this, musicians have focused on the body as the primary mediator of the soul. They use the left hand in particular to rebuild the soul and make sense of the fractured narratives that tell the stories of Vietnamese survival in diaspora. This article suggests that two musicians, neither of whom are Vietnamese refugees but who bore witness to trauma, play leading roles in this work.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-85
Number of pages24
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2021