‘Happy New Year!’, with a bittersweet smile

As the Lunar New Year approaches, the old ABBA song “Happy New Year!” is played again and again, almost in a loop, by radio stations and city shops in and around Hanoi. Elsewhere in the world the Swedish band ABBA has become a distant memory, vaguely remembered as a cheerful and slightly tacky group whose music was very successful… but not particularly inspired. However, Hanoians of all ages know the song. And most of them love it! In fact, ABBA’s “Happy New Year!” is probably the most spirited and revered song of Vietnam after “Tiến Quân Ca”, the epic national anthem written and composed by Văn Cao in 1944. How it came to be seen that way is very telling about the history of Hanoi. Back in the 1980s, in the middle of the subsidy period, Vietnam was mostly closed to the outside world. The only links with foreign countries where with brotherly nations in the Soviet Bloc. Foreigners were rare in Hanoi. There were just a few Russians around, visiting as part of cooperation missions. Comparing with the war period, Hanoians saw them like “Americans without the dollars”. But there was one, only one, Western country that maintained a close relationship with Vietnam. That country was Sweden. Driven by strong ethical principles, and rightfully indignant about the absurdity and the carnage of the American War, Sweden was unusual in having an embassy in Hanoi, and a large development cooperation program with Vietnam. Olof Palme was the Swedish Prime Minister… [Read full story]


Link http://news.c10mt.com/search/label/vietnambreakingnews and http://news.c10mt.com