American physicist falls for Kieu, immerses himself in Vietnamese culture

16:00 | 01/03/2021 Culture & Tourism

(VEN) - American Jaipal Kenneth Tuttle, who holds a doctorate in physics, found his true calling after coming to Vietnam for a vacation in 1998.

Dr. Jaipal Tuttle (center) performs on the stage

Smitten by the country, he decided to stay on, learn the language and delve into the quintessential encapsulation of Vietnamese culture – The Tale of Kieu (Truyện Kiều). Researching the literary classic is a far cry from his life as an academic in the United States, but Tuttle has not looked back.

Dr. Jaipal Tuttle has made Vietnam his home for the last 23 years

His interest in the epic, written in verse, was piqued when he found that all the Vietnamese that he had learnt till then was not enough to read and understand it, because it had been written in a language and script no longer in vogue. This set Tuttle on researching the classic for at least 15 years and his passion for Vietnamese culture has only deepened since.

"Con Sáo," as he is fondly known in Vietnam now, has developed a deep understanding of Vietnamese history and passion for several art forms including the operatic Cải Lương and Vọng Cổ, another southern Vietnamese music tradition.

Over the decades he has spent in Vietnam, "Con Sáo" has become a researcher, a musician, a model and a performer. He likes to sing anytime and anywhere, in music videos, stage performances, or connecting with people at “sing together” cafes in the Mekong Delta. His expanding interests include the works of artists like Tuấn Ngọc, Minh Cảnh, Vũ Linh, and Út Trà Ôn.

His undimmed passion for all things Vietnamese currently has him spend four hours a week on learning the correct Vietnamese pronunciation and accent of the people in the Mekong Delta region. He is also reading and learning more about Cải Lương, listening to famous artists to improve his pronunciation and histrionic skills.

Tuttle also spends time visiting schools, meeting artists and poets. In the future, he hopes to take his immersion in Vietnamese culture to the next level. He wants to write some short excerpts of Vọng Cổ on his own and also make videos showcasing his distinct style.

My Phung