Cover image for Songs of the caged, songs of the free : music and the Vietnamese refugee experience
Songs of the caged, songs of the free : music and the Vietnamese refugee experience
Reyes, Adelaida.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Philadelphia, Pa. : Temple University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xix, 218 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
First asylum: the camp in Palawan, Philippines -- Springboard to resettlement: the refugee processing center -- Vietnamese in New Jersey: the birth of community -- Orange County, California, and the Vietnamese -- Vietnamese Americans in Orange County: the musical life.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3560.V5 R49 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Sad songs and love songs. For Vietnamese refugees who fled Vietnam after the 1975 takeover by the Viet Cong, the predominant music of choice falls into these two general categories rather than any particular musical genre. In fact, Adelaida Reyes discovers, music that exiles call "Vietnamese music" -- that is, music sung in Vietnamese and almost exclusively written before 1975 -- includes such varied influences as Western rock, French-derived valse, Latin chacha, tango, bolero, an d paso doble. The Vietnamese refugee experience calls attention to issues commonly raised by migration: the redefinition of group relations, the reformulation of identity, and the reconstruction of social and musical life in resettlement. Fifteen years ago, Adelaida Reyes began doing fieldwork on the musical activities of Vietnamese refugees. She entered the emotion-driven world of forced migrants through expressive culture; learned to see the lives of refugee-resettlers through the music they made and enjoyed; and, in turn, gained a deeper understanding of their music through knowledge of their lives. In Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free, Reyes brings history, politics, and decades of research to her study of four resettlement communities, including refugee centers in Palawan and Bataan; the early refugee community in New Jersey; and the largest of all Vietnamese communities -- Little Saigon, in southern California's Orange County. Looking closely at diasporic Vietnamese in each location, Reyes demonstrates that expressive culture provides a valuable window into the refugee experience. Showing that Vietnamese immigrants deal with more than simply a new country and culture in these communities, Reyes considers such issues as ethnicity, socio-economic class, and differing generations. She considers in her study music of all kinds -- performed and recorded, public and private -- and looks at music as listened to and performed by all age groups, including church music, club music, and music used in cultural festivals. Moving from traditional folk music to elite and modern music and from the recording industry to pirated tapes. Reyes looks at how Vietnamese in exile struggled, in different ways, to hold onto a part of their home culture and to assimilate into their new, most frequently American, culture. Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free will attract the attention of readers in Asian American studies, Asian studies, music, and ethnomusicology.

Author Notes

Adelaida Reyes is a leading ethnomusicologist and Professor Emerita of Music at New Jersey City University. She has been a pioneer in the development of urban ethnomusicology as a field of study.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Ethnomusicological studies of cultural diasporas have centered mainly on communities of voluntary immigrants. Reyes (music, New Jersey City Univ.) here supports her view that the musical consequences of "forced migration" are unique by observing several groups of Vietnamese refugees in various stages of resettlement in the 1980s and early 1990s. She writes much about the sociopolitical and economic contexts for music-making in four locations (in the Philippines and the United States), concluding that anticommunism and deep nostalgia for pre-1975 Vietnam is reflected in the music of refugees to a greater extent than in the music of earlier (voluntary) Vietnamese immigrants to the United States. For academic collections specializing in migration studies.ÄBonnie Jo Dopp, Univ. of Maryland Lib., College Park (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The US is increasingly becoming the place of refuge for exiles from centers of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and unremitting conflict throughout the world. Always concerned with the musical cultures of minorities and immigrant societies, ethnomusicologists have increasingly taken interest in communities of refugees, dealing in recent studies with Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and the Hmong people of Southeast Asia in the 1970s. Ethnomusicologists study how immigrant communities preserve their traditional music and use music to cope with the problems of living as a minority and to interact with their new neighbors. A distinguished scholar, Reyes (New Jersey City Univ.) offers the first comprehensive study of the musical life of Vietnamese refugees driven out of their homes after the US-Vietnam war. Beginning with the refugees' departure from Vietnam, the narrative continues to a refugee camp in Palawan, Philippines, and then examines Vietnamese communities in New Jersey and California. Reyes provides discussion of music but largely devotes the book to musical life as indicative and representative of culture and of the special character of refugee life. Written principally for musicologists and social scientists, this volume may also be useful to undergraduates and even for the occasional high school paper. B. Nettl; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Introductionp. 1
Part I The Journey Prologuep. 19
1 First Asylum: The Camp in Palawan, Philippinesp. 24
2 Springboard to Resettlement: The Refugee Processing Centerp. 41
Part II The Transplanted Life Prologuep. 71
3 Vietnamese in New Jersey: The Birth of Communityp. 76
4 Orange County, California, and the Vietnamesep. 102
5 Vietnamese Americans in Orange County: The Musical Lifep. 124
Codetta: After Normalization ...p. 160
Epiloguep. 169
Appendixp. 177
Notesp. 181
Referencesp. 201
Indexp. 211