Phi Ung is the oldest in the band, aged 26 and the remaining members are all 23 years old. They were enrolled into the Army Culture and Arts College in October 2001 in different ways.
People’s Artist Y Brom sent Phi Ung and A Mu for training at the college under instruction of the composer An Thuyen, rector of the college with the aim that they would later help to build musical careers in Gia Lai province.
Roda Mic was exceptionally qualified at the college after having won a consolation prize at a television vocalists’ competition in 2000 called ‘Morning Star’.
Only Y Gari, the second son of famous Artist of Merit Y Moan, passed an entrance examination to the college.
Phi Ung and A Mu are studying at the Traditional Art Department and Roda Mic and Y Gari are learning vocal music.
Just a month after studying at the college, rector An Thuyen discovered the talent of the quartet and advised them to form a musical band. They agreed and thought of naming their band. It took them over a week to make a decision and eventually, they agreed on a simple but significant name ‘Basalt’ - so named as its members come from a land typical of dark volcanic rock bearing the specific characteristics of the Central Highlands.
All four members of Basalt can sing well. Y Gari plays the pong-go (a kind of drum) and the rest play guitars. They sing songs about the Central Highlands and play pieces of music for the Central Highlands at festivals, also at exchanges and performances to entertaining the soldiers: ‘Seek Lullaby of Sun God’, ‘Cup of Ban Me Coffee’, ‘Hozen Goes to Mountain Field’, ‘Colour of Plateau’ and ‘Armlet of Dam Sam’. Basalt performs these rock songs (some called Central Highlands Rock) with strong and simple voices which are not influenced by other vocal music techniques. They sing passionately and naturally on stage as though they were standing in the middle of their villages, forests and mountains.
Basalt was awarded second prize at the National Festival for Students’ Musical Bands in Hanoi last November, which coincided with the band’s first birthday, an unforgettable memory for them.
The quartet’s unique and original style with Central Highlands rock songs such as ‘LangBiang Mountain’, ‘Hozen Goes to Terraced Fields’ and ‘Mountain Soul’ can conquer and hold even the most fastidious audiences. Jury board members and audiences were impressed with the prelude of the song ‘Hozen Goes to Terraced Field’ performed by Phi Ung, and especially, with ‘Mountain Soul’ jointly performed by Phi Ung and A Mu. This creatively performed item helped Basalt come second at the National Festival for Students’ Musical Bands.
The quartet are now second-year students. They study music and other compulsory subjects at the same time. Roda Mic is following an education programme in 12th grade, Phi Ung in 11th grade’s education and A Mu just in 10th grade’s education. Therefore, they can only practise singing together twice a week.
The college always assigns Basalt to sing at song exchanges or at performances for soldiers. They also save a little money they earn from performances in order to help their younger sisters or brothers to study at school. Phi Ung has also composed seven songs which will be recorded soon.
Reprinted with permission from Nhan Dan Newspaper