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 (fourteen 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 (fourteen 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 (fourteen 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 (fourteen 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 (fourteen 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 (fourteen 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 (fourteen 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 (fourteen 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 (fourteen 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 (fourteen 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 (fourteen years ago) link

I could basically cut and paste Kenny's post.

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

Try to see a performance by water puppets.

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

five years pass...

Happy Tet. Wow, never knew about that scene

curmudgeon, Saturday, 13 February 2016 17:34 (three 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 (seven months 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 (seven months 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 (seven months 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 (seven months 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 week 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 week ago) link

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