Steve Wong, Times-News correspondent
| Hendersonville Times-News
It is not often that I am personally touched by music, but it happened when I watched the music video “Saigon” by WNC singer/songwriter Ben Phantom.
Is it because of the current Asian/American hate crimes happening in our country? Or is it because Ben and I share a thin slice of the American pie: We are both Asian Americans with cultural roots we feel we need to explore?
I’ve never personally met Ben, but after watching his video, I feel a distant connection.
Live music lovers in WNC know Ben and his music. He plays everywhere, and he plays a lot – when he’s not hiking hundreds of miles.
Most often he and his guitar can capture an audience with ease, with music that is grounded, not troubled or rushed. Rather, his music is a reflection of a man who knows who he is and where is going.
Ben is growing in his creativity, which is obvious from watching “Saigon,” (subtitled “My Father’s Journey”) which he filmed and edited. It recently won a special award – Outstanding Music Video – by the DisOrient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon. He had also supplied music to the festival to be used in promotional trailers.
In this five-minute video we get to meet Ben’s father, Anhtuan Phan, who escaped from Vietnam in 1975 and came to America. Forty-two years later he returned to his homeland for the first time and with his son, Ben.
“It was a powerful and emotional experience for both of us,” Ben said. “I met family members I never knew I had, visited our personal family cemetery and became able to understand my father in a whole new way. With this new understanding of my father, I also gained a better understanding of myself.”
Throughout the video we see the streets of Saigon and a people still struggling with everyday living as a result of a war now long gone. Yet, there are happy scenes and scenes of Ben and his father, finding each other in new ways. And as we watch, Ben sings a haunting song…
“Oh my god you’re in my bones
“Oh my love please take me home
“Tired of this lonely road
“Oh my god please take me home”
The music video was a semifinalist in both the Montreal Independent Film Festival and Prague International Indie Film Festival, and a finalist in the Northeast Mountain Film Festival.
Unlike the Asian Americans currently being attacked, Ben has been spared such social ills.
“No, I’ve never felt discriminated against because of my Asian ethnicity,” he reports. “I grew up in the D.C. area, which is very diverse, and because of my mixed background, I tend to be perceived as ‘ethnically ambiguous.’
“Because of this, I’ve never really been discriminated against because most people can’t really tell what my background is until they get to know me.”
Specifically, “I am a Vietnamese Jewish American,” Ben explained. “My great-grandmother escaped the Holocaust in Latvia, and my father escaped the Vietnam War.”
More specifically and closer to home: “I can’t speak for all of WNC/Hendo, but my experience here has been one of overwhelming love and acceptance. I feel very loved and supported by the community here,” he said.
“This music video is an extremely personal story about healing from generational trauma,” Ben added. “The Vietnam War had a deep and painful impact on my father, and that carried over to me. Growing up, my father never spoke about Vietnam, and he carried a deep anger and sadness.
“When he finally was willing to go back and face the painful memories, he discovered a deep love for his country, and was able to make peace with the past. Sharing this experience with him provided deep healing and growth for both of us.
“The past is always with us, whether we choose to face it or not. By facing the past, both the joy and the pain, we’re able to become more whole human beings. My hope is that this music video will inspire others to face their past, learn more about their family history, and heal together.”
Ben plays at Burntshirt Vineyards this Saturday afternoon and said he will play the music from the video then. In the meantime, you can see it on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbZbvsufq9Q.
2695 Sugarloaf Rd., Hendersonville
Saturday, May 1, 2-5 p.m., Ben Phantom, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, world music
Sunday, May 2, 2-5 p.m., Gene Holdway, bluegrass, Americana, folk, country, soloist
Blue Ghost Brewing Co.
125 Underwood Rd., Fletcher
Saturday, May 1, 7-8:45 p.m., Virginia and The Slims (as part of patio grand opening), jump blues and swing band from Asheville
924 7th Ave. E., Hendersonville
Friday, April 30, 10 p.m., Kin Zentido Norteño, $25 cover
Dry Falls Brewing Co.
425 Kanuga Rd., Hendersonville
Friday, April 30, 7 p.m., Pleasantly Wild, alternative band from Asheville
Saturday, May 1, 7-10 p.m., Mojomatic, funk-a-fied rocking blue
Guidon Brewing Co.
415 8th Ave. E., Hendersonville
Friday, April 30, 7-9 p.m., Collin Cheek, soloist, music that makes him happy
Saturday, May 1, 6 p.m., Craig Edwin St. John, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
Mills River Brewing Co.
336 Banner Farm Rd., Mills River
Friday, April 30, 7-10 p.m., Billingsley Band, covers, originals, indie, alternative rock
Saturday, May 1, 2 p.m., The Get Right Band, trio from Asheville, psychedelic indie, rock; 7-10 p.m., Zapato, funk, jazz
Sunday, May 2, 2-5 p.m., Hope Griffin Trio, folk, Americana
Oklawaha Brewing Company
147 1st Ave. E. Hendersonville
Friday, April 30, 8-11 p.m., The Last Full Measure, duo Jamie Gorsuch and karen Corn, folk, blues, rooted in WNC southern tradition
Sunday, May 2, 3-6 p.m., Blues Brunch (first Sunday of every month), Travis Corcoran, guitarist
Point Lookout Vineyards
408 Appleola Rd., Hendersonville
Friday, April 30, 6-9 p.m., The Old Man Mafia Band, songs we all know and love
Sunday, May 2, 3-6 p.m., Caribbean Cowboys, classic rock, southern rock, R&B, Reggae, beach music, covers, originals
Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards
588 Chestnut Gap Rd., Hendersonville
Saturday, May 1, 3-6 p.m., Bob Zullo, singer, guitarist
Sunday, May 2, 2:30-5:30 p.m., PEZ, Eric Congdon Acoustic Trio
Southern Appalachian Brewery
822 Locust St., Ste. 100, Hendersonville
Friday, April 30, 7-9 p.m., The Blake Ellege Band, blues, rock, funk, R&B, danceable
Saturday, May 1, 7-9 p.m., Pleasure Chest, blues, rock, soul, garage
South Rock Sports Grill
830 Greenville Hwy., Hendersonville
Saturday, May 1, 8 p.m.-midnight, Ricky Gunter, country
The 2nd Act Coffee, Wine and Craft Beer Bar
101 E. Allen St., Hendersonville
Friday, April 30, 6-9 p.m., Izzi Hughes, singer, young Hendo native, eclectic
The Dugout Sports Bar & Taphouse
430 N. Main St., Hendersonville
Saturday, May 1, 7-11 p.m., Twisted Trail, rock, danceable
The Greenhouse Moto Cafe
4021 Haywood Rd. (Highway 191) Mills River
Friday, April 30, 7-10 p.m., The Lads avl, covers, originals, classic, rock, blues, roots
Saturday, May 1, 7-10 p.m., Commodore Fox, party band, rock, dance
Sunday, May 2, 3-6 p.m., Chris Wayne, rockabilly, blues
Triskelion Brewing Company
340 7th Ave. E., Hendersonville
Friday, April 30, 7-9 p.m., Andrew Thelston Band, heavy rock, psychedelia, blues, acoustic, folk,
Saturday, May 1, 2:30-5:30 p.m., Jason Whitaker, country, soloist
Sunday, May 2, 3-5 p.m., Johnnie Blackwell, hometown rocker
Want to be included in “Live Music?” Send your information via email to Steve Wong at Just4Wong@Gmail.com by Monday at 8 a.m. for the coming Thursday-Sunday. Don’t forget to send details on your performing artist along with a good high-resolution photo.