Vietnamese Music/Music in Vietnam

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Going there in January and want to do some homework. Good records? Where to go to hear performances? What is the folk tradition like? Classical? Is there an indiginous V-pop or local dance music variant (like that mad Thai trance-pop you get?) Are there thousands of identical reggae bars? Was there a Russian influence?

Jamie (Jamie T Smith), Monday, 11 October 2004 14:40 (sixteen years ago) link

Boney M? M2M? That's all I know about it (flimsy disco and Euroteenybop).

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Monday, 11 October 2004 21:06 (sixteen years ago) link

I really like a CD called "From Saigon to Hanoi", which is amazingly good and is pretty much better than any indie-rock bullshit that i can think of. also check out "Ho! Roady Music from Vietnam" which compiles a bunch of eccentric Vietnamese street performers.

King Korn Karn, Monday, 11 October 2004 21:07 (sixteen years ago) link

"Ho! Roady music from Vietnam" is a fantastic leftfield comp which understands "Saigon is more like New Orleans than Boston or Linz,"
or "lively, anarchic, loud dense, hearty" as the sleevenotes say.

gaz (gaz), Monday, 11 October 2004 21:10 (sixteen years ago) link

Saw this thread a couple of hours ago and decided to pull out my vietnam 'improvisations: new traditional music' CD on radio ocora that i got months ago but didn't listen to -- the notes (and the title) are interesting -- its called that way bcz even with the traditional instruments being used there is room allowed for more improvisation than it seems to have been traditionally allowed for (that's the impression I got) so its like idiomatic improv is a novelty (this session is from '73) - hence 'new creations in the traditional line'.

The titles can be funny: one track expresses 'serenity', another 'nostalgia and sadness' and there is an improvisation 'in the sad mode'!

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Monday, 11 October 2004 21:21 (sixteen years ago) link

definitely check out a water puppet show if you get the chance.
viet-pop has lots of super sentimental romantic balladry.
there's a crazy traditional instrument with one string and no frets, just a whammy-bar made of buffalo horn. very fluid, vocal sound.
best music i heard there was by street musicians.

m0stly clean (m0stly clean), Monday, 11 October 2004 21:54 (sixteen years ago) link

This is a generalization, but a lot of the modern popular music from Vietnam tends to try to mimick American/Western culture (often resulting in a lot of cheesy/tacky looking music videos and such). Modern popular music from the Vietnamese community in the United States is also guilty of this too, but is a bit less embarassing in its execution; furthermore, the Vietnamese American musicians/artists tend to dedicate a considerable portion of their time towards the older/traditional/folk music. Among the many reasons for leaning towards the traditional forms may be a sense of nostalgia towards the homeland and a sense of authenticity; many people (esp. the youth) in Vietnam, however, often feel that these forms of music are old/boring/outdated. Kind of a "grass is always greener on the other side" thing going on. Again, this is a simplification/generalization. There are plenty of musicians in Vietnam that perform a variety of genres, but it's not often relected in mainstream/pop music.

Agreed with the earlier post about Viet-pop having "lots of super sentimental romantic balladry."

That one-stringed traditional instrument is called the "Dan Bau" and is often referred to as the "Vietnamese monochord" in English.

As for recommendations, a long-time respected modern Vietnamese musician is Trinh Cong Son, often referred to as the "Bob Dylan of Vietnam." He was a singer/songwriter who was known for his guitar-based songs of protest/peace during the Vietnam War and love songs later in his life.
(There's also a short bio on AMG.)

Voodoo Man, Monday, 11 October 2004 23:29 (sixteen years ago) link

I enthusiastically second Vietnamese water puppets (although I saw them in the U.S., not in Vietnam).

Rockist_Scientist (rockist_scientist), Monday, 11 October 2004 23:29 (sixteen years ago) link

Agreed with the earlier post about Viet-pop having "lots of super sentimental romantic balladry."

Yeah, that's about right. I am of Vietnamese ancestry, I grew up around the stuff, never really thought about it, mostly because my Vietnamese mother has horrid taste in music no matter what country it's from.

And believe me, you have not heard awful until you've heard every single Asian member of my family do successive renditions of "Careless Whisper."

My name is Kenny (My name is Kenny), Tuesday, 12 October 2004 06:56 (sixteen years ago) link

I heard some gorgeous H'Mong folksongs being sung by small children in Sapa.

Nightclubs in Hanoi appear to play a mixture of EBM and synthpop, weirdly, but I only went to one so it might've been an oddity.

Concur on the sentimental ballads thing. Also, hip hop is as popular there as it is everywhere else...

Jacob (Jacob), Tuesday, 12 October 2004 08:17 (sixteen years ago) link

I forgot to mention that "From Saigon to Hanoi" is a Viet-folk album. Be absolutely sure to check it out if you're interested in folk music.

King Korn Karn, Tuesday, 12 October 2004 15:46 (sixteen years ago) link

I could basically cut and paste Kenny's post.

alex in montreal, Tuesday, 12 October 2004 15:59 (sixteen years ago) link

five years pass...

i am headed to saigon in a few weeks? any tips on music, or just general fun stuff to do? going to be in district 1, i think.

marcg, Tuesday, 23 March 2010 02:28 (ten years ago) link

i am headed there in a few weeks, despite the fact that i phrased that like a question!

marcg, Tuesday, 23 March 2010 02:29 (ten years ago) link

Try to see a performance by water puppets.

_Rudipherous_, Tuesday, 23 March 2010 02:36 (ten years ago) link

i have a dozen killer sublime frequencies-esque videos i uploaded somewhere, will look tomorrow.

✌.✰|ʘ‿ʘ|✰.✌ (Steve Shasta), Tuesday, 23 March 2010 06:13 (ten years ago) link

nice, thanks steve. i will check out the water puppets...and am also looking forward to the FOOD!

marcg, Tuesday, 23 March 2010 18:25 (ten years ago) link

yeah sorry to turn every thread to food, but c'mon the food is so awesome. it's an incredible fusion of se asian (hmong-cambo-lao), chinese, and french. even the touristy restaurants in Saigon (eg, Quan An Ngon) are frequented by locals and my hosts were honestly tickled pink to go there.

i think i preferred the food in central VN to the north and the south as it's more regional and refined, but it's honestly a culinary paradise, esp for the $.

water puppet zither thing is pretty nutso, i will continue to look for vids. i think there's a little snippet of music on this vid (turn your vol up!!):

can't remember where i u/l'd the music ones too, vimeo i think? i'll keep looking...

✌.✰|ʘ‿ʘ|✰.✌ (Steve Shasta), Tuesday, 23 March 2010 21:07 (ten years ago) link

There are lots of Vietnamese restaurants in the DC area, but musically all I have seen advertised (and heard being played in shops)have been cheesy Vietnamese disco acts.

The Smithsonian folklife fest once featured this awesome Cambodian guy who was blind, wore Ray Charles like glasses, and strummed this traditional guitar-like instrument.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 23 March 2010 22:43 (ten years ago) link

five years pass...

Happy Tet. Wow, never knew about that scene

curmudgeon, Saturday, 13 February 2016 17:34 (four years ago) link

two years pass...

Not the happiest reason for a revive, but musician Mai Khôi has been in the news for protesting against internet censorship, after her music was virtually banned in her home country.

Mai Khôi has had an unusual career – she started as an acoustic singer-songwriter, most famous for her patriotic song "Việt Nam", and then a Gagaesque ironic trash-pop phase, with the timeless single "Selfie Orgasm". She was getting more interested in social issues and practising Buddhism, and her music became highly politicized when she witnessed police violence against protesters in Vietnam.

She's been threatened and harrassed by the government, and her performances have been shut down by police. When she won the Václav Havel Prize in Norway, the news was censored in Vietnam.

"Em thành của anh rồi" ("I am yours now") features the plucked instrument the dinh goong:

sbahnhof, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 06:50 (two years ago) link

Her band, Chém Gió, are good too:

"Quyen Thien Dac has been described as Vietnam’s only jazz musician."

.......quite a boast.

sbahnhof, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 06:51 (two years ago) link

And because you need your rap music, HERE IT IS:

Suboi was in the news too, come to think of it


sbahnhof, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 06:52 (two years ago) link

You'll notice the heavy use of English language and translations by both artists in these links, even though their songs are primarily for Vietnamese audiences. You can even read Mai Khôi and Chém Gió's weekly schedule at the Phù Sa Lab in Hanoi, the only venue in Vietnam they can play currently. Maybe it'll report it if they get shut down again! It's a lot easier to get this info than before, when that stuff was unfindable or the response was "I don't think there's a music scene"... But despite the extra accessibility now, it doesn't seem like it's broken down the insular attitudes in a lot of places.

sbahnhof, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 06:53 (two years ago) link

seven months pass...

Pop-rap single from Suboi, "Cho Không"

"can I be the CEO of your company", her stock is rising, god, financial metaphors are awful

Suboi also did an interview, including about the Vietnamese language, along with a performance on MTV Asia (below). Her key release afaik is her 2014 RUN E.P., which is straight fire, except for the title track which is hilarious and should be used on all TV sport shows


Mai Khôi has just announced some new music, with high praise for her collaborator:
"I am recording a new album with musician Ngoc Dai, he is the most talented musician in Vietnam. This is so exciting!"
Ngọc Đại has had trouble with the government and censorship too. Song titles like "Khuyến mại tình dục" ("Sex promotion"), it's very shocking

sbahnhof, Sunday, 11 August 2019 00:25 (one year ago) link

“Cho Không" is very good. The lyrics are a lot more interesting than what that “let me be your CEO” interlude would suggest.

breastcrawl, Sunday, 11 August 2019 01:19 (one year ago) link

this one is sick

Simon H., Thursday, 22 August 2019 18:24 (one year ago) link

Not sure where else to post this but I love this vietnamese track, thought folks here might enjoy.

― Will (kruezer2), Tuesday, 30 July 2019 19:02
Tóc Tiên - "Không Ai Hơn Em Đâu Anh (KAHEDA)" Official Dance Version

Apparently the title means, "No one is better than you (NOIBTY)"

Tóc Tiên is one of the '5 to watch' on your new favourite website,


"Toc Tien now is one of the top Vietnamese pop singers who own a huge number of fans in the country."

^ It's all like that

sbahnhof, Sunday, 1 September 2019 05:06 (one year ago) link

Strange that article doesn't mention Sơn Tùng MTP, who must be the biggest Vietnamese pop singer of the past few years by far. Pulls a lot musically and aesthetically from k-pop, did a song with Snoop Dogg recently. I really like this track of his from a few years ago:

Vinnie, Sunday, 1 September 2019 09:38 (one year ago) link

Folks on twitter love a Son Tung M-TP song/ video featuring Snoop Dogg

curmudgeon, Sunday, 1 September 2019 12:47 (one year ago) link

three months pass...

Folks on twitter wouldn't steer us wrong

xp Vinnie, thanks for posting the other track "Lạc Trôi" :-)

sbahnhof, Monday, 23 December 2019 10:42 (one year ago) link

Suboi's new track and video are wonderful

sbahnhof, Monday, 23 December 2019 10:43 (one year ago) link

There's now a Mai Khôi movie documentary – Mai Khoi and the Dissidents, it premiered last month at DOC NYC in the States.

The director talks a little about her and the difficulties in filming in Vietnam, but more about the lack of freedom of speech in the country:

DOC/NYC spotlight: Mai Khoi and the Dissidents, Director Joe Piscatella

sbahnhof, Monday, 23 December 2019 10:43 (one year ago) link

Not sure if it's just a case of "all I want for Xmas is gentleness", but the Lodyhelp-approved balladeer Vũ Cát Tường sounds pretty good this week. She seems like such a talented musician, even if I don't love all the songs. Her latest album was recorded in Los Angeles, and her Wikipedia page is a hoot:

"At the beginning of August, one of Vũ Cát Tường's songs named "Vết mưa" was accused of plagiarism from a Japanese pianist's music. This created a huge scandal and big arguments between different fan-bases as many anti-fans used this chance to voice their opinions online to bring her down. Vũ Cát Tường hereself however, chosed to stay out of all these fan-wars and staying level-headed despite all the harsh words and criticism sent her way from both the media and the anti-fans."

sbahnhof, Monday, 23 December 2019 10:44 (one year ago) link

Wow, Suboi is really good huh. “Bet On Me” is fantastic. Love the video too.

breastcrawl, Monday, 23 December 2019 22:16 (one year ago) link

Also loving the Sơn Tùng MTPs.

breastcrawl, Monday, 23 December 2019 22:56 (one year ago) link

Yeah I'm a fan of Vũ Cát Tường as well. Not every song certainly, but stuff like Mơ that isn't just a straightforward piano ballad or kpop rip is nice to hear when going out

Vinnie, Tuesday, 24 December 2019 11:15 (one year ago) link

two months pass...

Vietnamese coronavirus Tim-tok Dance with song

curmudgeon, Friday, 6 March 2020 18:25 (ten months ago) link


curmudgeon, Friday, 6 March 2020 18:25 (ten months ago) link

Oh autocorrect

curmudgeon, Friday, 6 March 2020 18:25 (ten months ago) link

Yes, I saw that on the Newsround website, thx El Tomboto

"The song was made by singer Khac Hun and Vietnam's National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and is based on a popular pop song Ghen."

The original tune - this video is pretty F'd up


^ NONE of this is medically recommended behaviour

sbahnhof, Friday, 13 March 2020 04:57 (ten months ago) link


curmudgeon, Thursday, 19 March 2020 04:32 (ten months ago) link

three months pass...

This one’s for forks:
Sơn Tùng M-TP • Có chắc yêu là đây (or simply ‘CCYLD’ of course)

No mean feat. DaBaby (breastcrawl), Friday, 10 July 2020 20:48 (six months ago) link

(once more, this time without diacritics, in case anyone wants to do a search: Son Tung M-TP • Co chac yeu la day)

No mean feat. DaBaby (breastcrawl), Friday, 10 July 2020 20:52 (six months ago) link

Autotuning really wreaks havoc on understanding a tonal language, huh?

rb (soda), Friday, 10 July 2020 23:59 (six months ago) link

Pretty good song. More than autotune, I think singing itself makes tonal languages pretty difficult to understand. Most Vietnamese songs will try to have the tones of the words match the melody - uptone word when the melody goes up, downtone word when the melody goes down - but it's no guarantee, and the other tones don't map onto melody cleanly. I've heard some songs where that was completely ignored and it's the equivalent of Katy Perry singing "unCONdiTIONally". Big pet peeve for my wife

Vinnie, Saturday, 11 July 2020 01:12 (six months ago) link

one month passes...

Here's one I've been playing a lot lately, maybe influenced by Jack U. This is one of the more successful pairings of traditional Viet music with modern sounds for me

Vinnie, Friday, 4 September 2020 11:54 (four months ago) link

lemme label that:

Hoàng Thuỳ Linh • Để Mị Nói Cho Mà Nghe

No mean feat. DaBaby (breastcrawl), Friday, 4 September 2020 12:25 (four months ago) link

and if that doesn't come up in Search:

Hoang Thuy Linh • De Mị Noi Cho Ma Nghe

No mean feat. DaBaby (breastcrawl), Friday, 4 September 2020 12:27 (four months ago) link

argh, Mị should have become Mi - all this work for nothing!

No mean feat. DaBaby (breastcrawl), Friday, 4 September 2020 12:32 (four months ago) link

But thanks for the effort!

Vinnie, Friday, 4 September 2020 12:40 (four months ago) link

On Facebook I saw a posting on her page encouraging people to vote for Hoàng Thuỳ Linh in the VTv awards

Also a reference to a movie she is in on Netflix

curmudgeon, Friday, 4 September 2020 15:14 (four months ago) link

three months pass...

new Son Tung M-TP:
Sơn Tùng M-TP • Chúng ta của hiện tại

...but don't let the movie distract you from the song

(the guy obviously has a budget, so it's possible he hired Kenny G to do the "My, My, My"-like sax)

oh, and I just found out that this, from earlier this year:
Pháo ft. Wack • 2 Phút hơn

(or maybe this was the first version?) currently the world's most shazam'ed song in this remixed version:
Pháo • 2 Phút hơn (KAIZ remix)

(it's TikTok-related, of course)

two weeks pass...

a sign of life from Suboi:
Rhymastic ft. Suboi • Cả Ngàn Lời Chúc

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