"HMONG ADELE." Hmong pop singer Maa Vue smiles in Weston,
Wisconsin. Vue has been called the "Hmong Adele," but her fame
so far has been found only among Asian Americans. (Keith Uhlig/Wausau
Daily Herald via AP)
From The Asian Reporter, V27, #21 (November 6, 2017),
pages 7 & 8.
Hmong pop singer gains popularity
By Keith Uhlig
Wausau Daily Herald
WESTON, Wis. (AP) — She’s been called the "Hmong Adele," but
her fame so far has been found only among Asian Americans.
A lot more people now know about Maa Vue’s musical quest.
The Wausau Daily Herald reports that her singing and
music videos in Hmong have inspired more than 37,000 people to
subscribe to her YouTube channel, and her music videos are
watched millions of times. One video, "Rov Pom Koj Dua (See You
Again)," a duet with another Hmong singer, David Yang, has more
than 4.8 million views. That online popularity netted Vue a
music recording contract with a Hmong-owned California company,
Yellow Diamond Records.
Her performances resonate with young people who, like Vue,
straddle the line between modern life in the United States and
the ancient Hmong traditions that have been part of the ethnic
group’s culture for generations in southeast Asia.
"My style of music was unique at the time" she started
singing professionally six years ago, Vue said. "I used a
contemporary style with the Hmong language. ... Now there are
many people doing it. There are Hmong rappers, Hmong rock
One of Vue’s primary goals is to preserve the Hmong language
through her music, to help young people learn to speak it by
approaching them in a way that resonates.
"The Hmong language, to me, is a dying language," Vue said.
Along the way, she and other young musicians who use the same
template ruffled feathers among traditionalists.
Traditional Hmong singing is very different from
western-style music; it’s more chanting than singing, and is not
a melodic art form. Applying American musical styles with the
Hmong language was not immediately embraced by elders who likely
viewed Hmong pop as another form of diluting the culture.
The owner of Yellow Diamond Records, Tre Xiong, 28, of
Merced, California, said the pushback from the elders has eased
as Hmong pop music has shown its staying power and is proving to
be a way to keep the language in use.
"Music is a universal language, and they’ve come to realize a
new generation is embracing it," Xiong said.
Mixing old and new to create a new form of music isn’t the
only way Vue challenges traditional Hmong thinking. A young
married woman traditionally would not travel alone, but she must
as she performs in live concerts across the country.
When she first started singing, in a show choir in middle
school in Green Bay, she hid her singing desires from her
parents. When she continued singing in high school, she had to
tell them, and they discouraged her from participating.
She stubbornly held out. Vue just loved to sing.
That’s where she picked up her love of pop and show-tune
Vue was working a minimum-wage job, taking care of her
mother, who is diabetic and blind, while juggling school and
"I was singing all kinds of songs, Beatles, Aretha Franklin,
musicals," Vue said. "I loved it. I loved singing. I loved
She was still a student at Green Bay East High School when
she met her future husband, Hmong Zong Yang, who attended D.C.
Everest Senior High School. Yang encouraged her to pursue her
dreams, and his support gave her the confidence to work for a
Even as she sang and built her fame, she was studying
business and arts management, first at the University of
Wisconsin (UW) Marathon County and then at UW-Stevens Point. Vue
put school on hold when her career gained traction and she began
to earn a steady income from singing. She plans to return soon
to finish her degree.
Meanwhile, Yang is completing his degree at UW-Stevens Point
where he’s studying computer information systems. He has no
ambition to step into a spotlight.
"I just want a normal, 9-to-5 job," he said, although he has
been working to create video games.
As for Vue, she plans to slowly ease out of her performing
schedule to focus on producing and working with Yellow Diamond
Records to aid other young performers.
"I think this is leading me to a higher calling," Vue said,
"to create a more impressive Hmong music industry."
Vue was featured on the October 19 episode of Wisconsin
Public Television’s "Wisconsin Life." To learn more, visit <www.wisconsinlife.org>.