Diacritics Vietnamese Artists Interview
by Jade Hidle
In a track titled “Burn Out Your Eyes” on Swimming to Cambodia, Nhat shares—interestingly, via the voice of a guest female singer—the story of his journey from Việt Nam to the United States: “Michael Nhat, originally named Van, was born on November 12th, 1974 in a village outside of Sài Gòn in Việt Nam . There is utterly nothing known about his mother, Minh Nhat, or his father. On April 30, 1975, Van and Minh were in an airplane crash from Việt Nam to San Diego, California. Van was sent to an orphanage in Sài Gòn and adopted by Frank and Beverly.” This autobiographical bit about Nhat’s origins is immediately followed by narration about the first musical recordings he completed. It is through this juxtaposition that it becomes clear Nhat is an artist creating music for generations of Vietnamese-Americans—or any individual, for that matter—who are not or do not want to be defined by the struggle for identity or overburdened by the past, because it is okay, if not important, today. express who they are today.