Vietnamese hip-hop? Oh my god!
  • By Brian Webb | dtinews.vn | March 18, 2012 10:49 AM
I was impressed by so much when I first came to Vietnam. Unfortunately, music was not one of them.

Music has always been a big part of my life. I’ve written about it for years, and on some days I could not get by without it. Each time there was an opportunity to travel I would keep my ear out for new songs and forms of music that were foreign to me. They were to be found in almost every country, except for new music in Vietnam.

Granted, that is a massive generalization. I’ve come to appreciate music from Vietnamese opera, or cheo. I also like the music they play at funerals (friends say I’m crazy, but whatever). Still, in the end new forms of music here like “V-pop” are excruciatingly unexciting to me.  

The point is that I have not seen any type of music scene that would bring to mind words like ‘vibrant’, ‘creative’ or,  especially, ‘new’.

For a long time I thought I was missing something. But after more than four years living here and countless searches, for me at least, the answer was ‘no’.

The really convincing moment was when, teaching a class, the word ‘hip-hop’ was brought up. I was horrified to realize that each and every one of the Vietnamese students thought that hip-hop was a dance you could learn by taking a few classes.

This is the reason that I was so surprised to hear a track that was truly new, mixing Vietnamese music with actual hip-hop (which is, by the way, an entire art form, including, mainly, music).

The track , is one of the first respectable hip-hop tracks that has successfully merged the western standard of the genre with Vietnamese samples.

On the first listening it sounded like an American funk sample. But I was quite surprised to learn that the main sample for the track came from a Vietnamese song.

Chopped and cut in hip-hop tradition, though, it comes out as something completely new, an authentic sounding blend of East and West.

But possibly the most exciting aspect of this internet release is the surprising and immediate interest that has been shown by the Vietnamese community. It’s had more than 100,000 Youtube hits in the first few days, and countless comments in Vietnamese! Obviously young people in this country are starving for the new as well.

There are certain times in certain regions where creativity just takes off because of certain conditions.

Even though there is a lack of understanding about what hip-hop is in this country it could be that now is the time for young people to learn about, and make their own interpretation of, what that culture actually is: not just a dance, or a style of dress and speech.

In terms of break dancing - just one part of hip-hop- there have been a number of Vietnamese crews who have done exactly that, taking something that was invented in a different time period, half-way across the world, and adding a distinctive style.

But for some reason music, the thing that started the entire movement, has lagged far behind in this country.

Maybe now there is a chance for a creative period to begin in this country. All it would take is a few sparks, like this one, to inspire people here to discover and create new music; maybe even
a musical revolution.

It’s not unheard of.

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