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home : community : community Wednesday, November 22, 2017

7/7/2017 3:37:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Npav Ntsuab, A Legendary Artist Who Defined Hmong Music, Has Died

By Macy Yang

Npav Ntsuab, 51, who was battling health problems for a number of years, has died on May 28 in a Sacramento hospital, according to family members. Npav Ntsuab born Tong Moua, is the son of Pa Chai Moua and May Yang. Tong is the eldest of six children. He has never been married and leaves behind his siblings and mother.

What do we know about Npav Ntsuab the legendary artist? At the end of the Vietnam War, like many Hmong families, the Moua family left Laos and sought refuge in France. They arrived in France in 1977 when Tong was 10 years old. While in France, Tong lived with a wealthy French family who had agreed to take him and several siblings. There, according to Kaying Moua, Tong's sister, his sponsor parents bought him a stereo and, because he missed home so much, he listened to it all the time-it was the beginning of Tong's first love of music. The Moua family lived in France for about 13 years during which Tong was busy focusing on his music performing at weddings and parties, says Kaying.

In the early 1990s, a young Tong Moua took to the stage of the Hmong New Year's in Fresno as contestant number 14. He had recently immigrated from France and was competing for the title "Hmong Best Artist." "I was lonely," he says in an interview with Ciaj Sia Entertainment in 2012, "and I wanted to be famous." Passionately singing his most famous song "Npav Ntsuab for Sale" his voice resonated with the audience that evening. Although he did not win first place, Npav Ntsuab went on to win the hearts of his fans and the audience. For the next several decades or so, Npav Ntsuab carved out Hmong music in such a way that had not been done before by any Hmong musical artist of this generation. His style was a combination of traditional and modern music and a twist of comedy. Npav Ntsuab immediately became a familiar household name across all ages-a stage name Tong eventually took.

Npav Ntsuab poked fun of modern day Hmong lives in his music in comedic songs like "Niam Hlob Niam Yau." A song about polygamy and the portrayal of younger wives who can't cook, but relied on McDonald's, an American fast food epidemic. "Npav Ntsuab opened the way for a lot of people after him," says Billy Xiong, singer and friend. Uniquely dressed in custom made clothes, Npav Ntsuab interjects Hmong customs like 'hu plig,' and 'neeb' rituals into his performance and created his own unique brand. According to an earlier interview, Npav Ntsuab said, "We have a lot of music, but most were about love." He expressed how he wanted to take music to another level and another direction. "It was a little odd," says Kaying, "but people liked it. It worked for him, so we just let him do what he wanted."

Npav Ntsuab for Sale, co-written by Tou Lee, is believed to be inspired by Npav Ntsuab's lost love who came to America from France and married for a green card, according to those Hmong Times spoke to. Npav Ntsuab denies it, when asked about it during the Ciaj Sia Entertainment interview. His explanation is that the song was simply inspired by all the people who were living in the U.S. without a green card, including himself at the time the song was written. The girl in Npav Ntsuab for Sale could have been any girl and the surname "Yang" was as random as anything, he went on to explain during the interview.

For Npav Ntsuab life has not been easy. In his Ciaj Sia Entertainment interview in 2012, he said he's worked as a grave digger when he was younger, and sang in subways and streets as a side gig. The money he got encouraged him to sing even more. When he started recording after the famous Npav Ntsuab for Sale song there was no one to sponsor him besides his parents and a brother in France, which he was thankful for, he stated. According to Rose Xiong, Radio Host at KJAY 1430 AM, "Npav Ntsuab is compassionate, not just well known. He volunteers his time to the community whether he gets paid or not." In fact, the Hmong music industry can be challenging for many because the market is small and difficult to make a career. "He is dedicated to his music," says Kaying, "fans may think he got a lot of money, but he didn't. He did it because he enjoyed entertaining, music and it was a hobby for him."

"He's a good friend," says Sy Lee, singer and longtime friend. Lee says he and Npav Ntsuab have known each other and remained friends for more than 20 years. He accidentally ran into Npav Ntsuab, who at the time was still Tong Moua, at Tou Lee's house while they were writing the song Npav Ntsuab for Sale. Lee didn't know Npav Ntsuab and wasn't interested in knowing him. But Npav Ntsuab certainly knew Lee, who was already a known singer in the 1990s. Lee last saw Npav Ntsuab at the hospital right before he died. "He suffered," says Lee. During their visit, Lee recalls they reminisced about their friendship and laughed about times when they travelled together to perform in various places. "I will miss him," Lee says.

For those who knew Npav Ntsuab, he is described among other things as "unique", "funny", and "legendary"-a legend he truly is and will always be. Npav Ntsuab will be missed for his talent and remarkable contribution in shaping the Hmong music industry during a time when musical artists were afraid to be different. Kaying says, if Npav Ntsuab could pass along a message to his fans, he would say, "continue to party, continue to sing."

Funeral services for Npav Ntsuab were held on June 17-18 in Sacramento, CA.




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