Opinion
What music says about you
  • | dtinews.vn | April 21, 2011 10:26 AM

Usually when someone asks you what kind of music you like, they are trying to get to know you a bit better. Combined with a few details – gender, age, education – the kind of music you like can say a lot about you. It’s almost as reliable as a mathematical formula. For example, a teenage girl + too much time in front of MTV = Justin Beiber. Like languages, these formulas are different in every culture.

For example, “hot” news about one particular American singer might not be such “hot” news for Vietnamese people.

I’m sure everyone reading the English version of this blog has heard of Bob Dylan, at least by now, after his gig in Saigon. Some of the songs that made him most famous, which played such a large role in the counter culture movement of the 1960s and 70s, gained new meaning with his concert earlier this month.

The fact his music is still so strongly associated with the “Vietnam War” is testament to the importance the war still holds in the hearts of many people in Western countries, at least according to my experience.

When I was doing my undergraduate degree five years ago, I only knew Vietnam through Hollywood films like Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. Every one of these films portrays Vietnam as an impoverished country, wrecked by decades of war.

After some vigorous googling, I went to the library to mug up on Vietnamese culture, economy and “doi moi” – only to find a bunch of books on, you guessed it, The Vietnam War.

That all changed when I got here, of course, and learned to think like a Vietnamese person through my friends. For them, the decades of conflict didn’t even register in their lives, eclipsed instead by matters of importance, such as how to get money, how to develop the economy and whether the nude photos of model Ngoc Quyen were artistic or not.

That’s why most of my Vietnamese friends (though not all) didn’t know about or care much for Bob Dylan, a man who is most famous (whether he likes it or not) for writing about the past. And that is why, I guess, the concert hall was half empty when he performed. By all accounts it was a very entertaining concert, so hats off to the organisers. But that didn’t make it relevant to a Vietnamese audience. It did more to evoke the West’s obsession with the Vietnam War.

Just a week later, I was wriggling away to the trippy beats of Vietnamese DJ Tri Minh and guests at Hanoi Sound Stuff Festival, along with hundreds of other sweaty fans, Vietnamese and foreigner alike. It was a festival that broke down all boundaries as children yelped, parents sipped beers, teenagers did some break dancing and a couple of hippies swished their skirts – all in time to the music. Judging by the ecstatic expressions on people’s faces and the “electric” atmosphere, it’s a kind of new music (in Vietnam) that can reach out to many different people. Innovation + style = the future (I hope).

Marianne Brown has been living in Vietnam since 2006. She can speak Vietnamese and has written a Vietnamese version of this story on Dantri. It can be found here.

 

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