Kim Barbier: "I grew up in Vietnamese way of education”

Update: 09:58 | 17/10/2019
Born in Paris – the cradle of the world’s leading classical music, Vietnamese-French artist Kim Barbier soon became famous in the international piano circle. However, in her conversation with The World and Vietnam Report, she mostly talked about her Vietnamese mother and Kim’s simple, honest feelings about “the second homeland”.
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Kim Barbier.

Returning to Vietnam after nearly 10 years, you have just had a wonderful night with Ha Noi audience. Is there new feeling of this return?

Thank you! This was the second time that I have performed in Ha Noi at the invitation from the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra. I was very happy and amazed by the growing love and interest of the audience for classical music and me.

Especially, this is the fourth time that I have returned to my mother’s homeland. There are definitely much new feeling as it has been a long time since my last return.

Owning the two French and Vietnamese bloodlines, you still look very Asian. You have many similarities with your mother, don’t you?

My mother comes from Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh city). She went to France in 1973 and met my father here. Before coming to perform in Vietnam, I had visited and learned about my mother’s hometown. In Saigon, I only have a few relatives whom I always look forward to with warm feeling.

Is your artistic path a family’s tradition or personal passion?

In my family, nobody follows professional artistic path, but everyone loves music. My father has a hobby of singing and playing saxophone. My mother, though not be able to play piano, was the one who brought the first piano home and led me to music classes since I was very young. It can be said that my mother was the person inspring me to enter this artistic path. However, the reason for attachment and the determination to come the end of the path were decided by myself.

“What touched me was the extraordinary combination of poetry and impressive techniques”, Simon Rattle, the world-renowned conductor commented on Kim Barbier.

In addition to the love for music, what did your mother tell you about the Vietnamese culture?

Born and raised in France, I was able to visit my mother’s hometown when I was matured. But I think, since young ages, what I connected to Vietnam was my heart and the blood in my body. I understood Vietnam through my mother-made dishes, her way of communication and her behaviours in daily life.

When I first came to Vietnam, I clearly felt the similarities between my mother’s behaviours and those of my relatives in Vietnam, which helped me better understand the cultural behaviour of Vietnamese people as well as begin to distinguish the boundaries of Vietnamese and French cultures.

kim barbier i grew up in vietnamese way of education
Kim Barbier is a guest soloist of many famous orchestras in Europe.

Vietnamese mothers in foreign countries often teach their children to speak Vietnamese in order to remember the origin. So does your mother?

My mother perhaps thought differently. As she hoped a biracial child like me to integrate better into the French society, she hardly spoke to me in Vietnamese.

My mother has never put any pressure on me in learning Vietnamese, but she has educated and taught me like a Vietnamese. During the past time, she devoted herself to raising and looking after me in the Vietnamese traditional manner. So when I returned to her hometown, I realized that I has been enjoyed and grown up in a very Vietnamese way of education.

What do you feel most vividly about that behaviour in yourself?

They are the emphasis on hierarchy and affection in family, respect of the elders and support for the youngers, “go lightly, speak quietly”,… As a result, although living in France, my sisters and I are generally quiet and rarely speak loudly or argue with the elders.

Touring around the world, will Vietnam be a part of your priority plan? What else in your mother’s homeland that you want to discover?

I always look forward to receiving more opportunities and invitations to return to perform in Vietnam. Every trip to my mother’s homeland left unforgettable memories which were the majestic and magnificent beauty of Ha Long’s stalactite caves, the poetic and rustic beauty of the Mekong River region and especially the difficult-to-be-described emotion of wearing the Vietnamese Ao Dai in my first performance in Ha Noi in 2011. For me, the beautiful nature of Vietnam is still owning undiscovered things and I would like to visit wild places where lack of human footprints.

Kim Barbier graduated from the French National Conservatory with the major in Piano. She is currently a guest soloist of many orchestras around the world such as the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Estonian National Orchestra, the Zagreb Radio Station’s Orchestra, the Chinese National Symphony Orchestra, Potsdam’s new symphony orchestra… As a symphony artist, she has collaborated with a lot of famous artists such as David Geringas, Tatjana Vassilieva, Sol Gabetta, Guy Braunstein, Emmanuel Pahud, Louis Lortie, Sharon Kam,…
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Quang Chinh