Friday, February 6, 2015

Thanh Ha

Thanh Ha (1969-     ) is a beautiful Amerasian singer originally from Da Nang, Vietnam.  Born on March 18, 1969 to a Vietnamese mother and an Anglo-American father, Thanh Ha grew up in Da Nang and as a child had participated in a youth choir that performed frequently for a major radio broadcasting network based in that city.  Her father was an American soldier stationed in Vietnam during the war by the name of Bill Williams.  Unfortunately, when she was just two years old, her father was killed in action while stationed in Chu Lai, Central Vietnam.

In the years following the Fall of Saigon, Thanh Ha remained in Da Nang with her mother and spent her adolescent years focused primarily on her studies.  Up until her graduation from high school, for Thanh Ha, the possibility of one day becoming a professional singer had been rather far fetched since she neither had the encouragement from her family to pursue such a career nor had she given it much thought.  Although her physical appearance overwhelmingly favored that of a typical European, Thanh Ha's upbringing from childhood to adolescence in Vietnam did not differ much from her peers as she had grown up in a normal and stable household.

After a couple of years spent living in Ho Chi Minh City where she had graduated from Tran Phu High School, Thanh Ha at age 20 and her mother left Vietnam under the Amerasian Homecoming Act and temporarily relocated to Bataan, Philippines, a temporary resettlement site for Amerasians and their families from Vietnam while awaiting for their paperwork to be processed prior to entering the United States.  During the months spent in Bataan, with the encouragement from friends Thanh Ha entered herself in a beauty pageant that had been put together for the Vietnamese Amerasian population there.  To the disappointment of her friends, Thanh Ha did not take home the trophy as winner of the beauty pageant.  However, she did end up winning in the pageant's talent competition as judges were tremendously impressed with her singing voice.  She was awarded $150 US as her winning prize.  According to Thanh Ha, she was not saddened by the least bit for not winning the beauty pageant crown and was extremely content to discover that her voice had been liked by so many people, much to her surprise.

After six months in Bataan, Thanh Ha and her mother resettled in Utica, New York during the latter part of 1991.  As she was about to embark on a new life now in her fatherland, the music business and a performing career as a professional singer began to spark the interests of Thanh Ha.  After partaking in various gigs as a singer for a local Vietnamese band, Thanh Ha managed to garner the attention of many local audience members as well as musicians and performers.  One particular singer who had taken notice of Thanh Ha's star potential was Trizzie Phuong Trinh.  Thanh Ha had worked on a show performing as one of the local singers opening up for Trizzie Phuong Trinh, the show's featured headliner performer.  Although Trizzie Phuong Trinh had provided the show promoters the much needed draw and attention in advertisement prior to the night of the performance, undoubtedly it was Thanh Ha's performance that would end up being the show stopping crowd pleaser.  This was undeniably evident, as even Trizzie Phuong Trinh that night would concede.  A few weeks would pass after the night of that performance as Thanh Ha would travel out to Southern California upon the introduction carried out by Trizzie Phuong Trinh.  This would be the first of two Amerasian performers graciously discovered by Trizzie Phuong Trinh and brought over to the overseas Vietnamese entertainment capital located in Orange County, California.  After Thanh Ha, Phi Nhung would follow as Trizzie Phuong Trinh's next discovery all the way from Tampa, Florida.

Although her journey to stardom was rather brief, Thanh Ha's arrival in Orange County, California did not come with a rolled out red carpet or paparazzi.  She was still a virtual unknown when she first came to California.  Through Trizzie Phuong Trinh's introduction, Thanh Ha was given the opportunity to record for Thuy Anh, a music production label owned by Tien Bac, the youngest brother of the owners of Thanh Lan and Lang Van, two of the most established and reputable overseas Vietnamese music labels owned by two sisters.  Thanh Ha's recordings of five solo tracks would be released by the Thuy Anh label on a duet album together with the legendary, iconic chanteuse of the Vietnamese genre of popular music known as Nhạc Trẻ, singer Thanh Lan, during the spring of 1994.  This would mark Thanh Ha's earliest released audio recordings of her career.  Despite the high level of anticipation for Thanh Lan by the overseas Vietnamese community since her arrival to the United States that reunited her with many of her fans after so many years, lack of promotion from Thuy Anh resulted in this duet album being unnoticed.

Once resettled in Southern California, Thanh Ha found work with a steady gig performing weekly at the Can Nightclub in Garden Grove which was owned and operated by Le Uyen who had also been the owner of another popular venue years prior called Saigon Cabaret.  It would be here that she would meet the popular Vietnamese songwriter/singer, Duc Huy, who would invite her to become one of the two lead singers for his band, Forever Young, alongside his then wife, singer Thao Mi. In a matter of a few short months, Thanh Ha would manage to gain quite a following of Vietnamese Orange County locals with her weekly performances at the Can Nightclub.  Week after week, audiences came in droves to see this beautiful Amerasian girl with blonde hair and chestnut hazel eyes belt out songs like Ban Tinh Cuoi, Mua Tren Bien Vang, Autumn Leaves and Tieng Mua Dem. Audiences took notice of the similarities between the voices of Thanh Ha and that of her idol, Khanh Ha, who was then at the top of her game.  Even Khanh Ha had taken notice of Thanh Ha's talents and had booked her for several performances at the Chez Moi Nightclub in Alhambra, a club that was run by Khanh Ha and The Uptight band.  Thanh Ha would also make several recordings produced under the label, Khanh Ha Productions, during this time. 

Within a few months after Thanh Ha first made her debut on the Vietnamese cabaret circuit in Orange County, California, she would spark the interest of Thai Xuan, the owner of Diem Xua Productions.  It was this music production label that would produce and release Thanh Ha's breakthrough debut album, Mot Doi Xin Nho Mai.  Upon its release, Thanh Ha would make several appearances on Vietnam Performing Arts Television performing songs such as Buon and Xa Em Ky Niem.  The latter of the two songs was a Duc Huy penned tune Thanh Ha had recorded also for Diem Xua Productions but was featured on a compilation album with various other artists.  Television viewers were in awe of how this exotic Amerasian singer who beared a striking resemblance to the likes of  iconic American celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeifer, and Madonna could sing in Vietnamese so beautifully.  Sales of Thanh Ha's debut album skyrocketed which catapulted Thanh Ha to be well on her way to superstardom.  Music videos would be made and produced by Diem Xua Productions for two of the tracks from her debut album would follow, Mot Doi Xin Nho Mai, a Vietnamese version of a song made popular by Jennifer Rush and Celine Dion called The Power of Love, and Buon.

Thanh Ha's photogenic and striking features were obvious factors that would make her an audience favorite with music videos.  One of her most memorable earliest videos was of a song written by Vietnamese songwriter, Le Tin Huong, Co Nhung Niem Rieng.  Produced by Truong Thanh, the music video captured Thanh Ha's essence and beauty on every angle and was shot in the Mojave Desert.  This would become one of Thanh Ha's signature songs throughout her career and the music video continues to be one of her most viewed videos on YouTube.

In the fall of 1994, Thanh Ha was now a regular performer at the prestigious Ritz Nightclub in Anaheim, California.  She was then asked to perform at a major event produced by Quoc Thai that would feature legendary singer, Ngoc Lan, who was making a return to the stage after a long absence held at the Anaheim Marriott.  The sold out event due to the general public's extremely high anticipation for Ngoc Lan's return boasted an impressive list of headliner performers such as Tuan Ngoc, Don Ho and Lynda Trang Dai, but in the end it was Thanh Ha who walked away as the crowd's favorite performer of the night.  This solidified Thanh Ha's status as a live performer and put her in the ranks of such highly admired Vietnamese pop music divas of the day such as Khanh Ha, Ngoc Lan and Y Lan.

After a successful stint with Diem Xua Productions came a lucrative contract with Thuy Nga Paris.  It was of no surprise that Thanh Ha would finally arrive on the Paris By Night stage.  In the years Thanh Ha was under contract with Thuy Nga Paris, she continued to enchant viewer audiences with each music video appearance and recorded studio album.

At the height of her popularity, Thanh Ha decided to take a break and focus on starting a family.  In 1999, Thanh Ha gave birth to a daughter, Isabella.  After a few years spent in Houston, her career hiatus would be put to an end as her large following of fans insisted on her return to the stage.  Thanh Ha resumed her career with live performances all around the world and appearances on music videos for Thuy Nga Paris, Diem Xua, Asia Entertainment, Van Son Entertainment, New York Night Productions, May Productions, Kim Loi Studio, Blue Ocean and Tinh Productions.  She has since formed her own music production label and has released several studio albums including Chia Khoa Tinh Yeu, Ru Long Kho Dai and The Evolution of Thanh Ha.  Since the beginning of 2016, Thanh Ha can be seen on the weekly hit television talent show in Vietnam, Tình Bolero, serving on the panel of celebrity judges.  

As for her personal life, Thanh Ha has been twice divorced.  At present, she is in a committed relationship with Roland Casiquin, Jr., a talented musician who was once associated with the popular Vietnamese pop band, The Tranz.  Among her best friends in the Vietnamese entertainment industry include fellow performers Don Ho, Truc Lam, Truc Linh and Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen

(Left to Right):  Giao Linh, Thanh Ha, Hoa Mi, Phuong Dung after a taping
of the popular Vietnamese television talent show, Tình Bolero (February, 2016)



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