There has been a real shift in the Southeast Asian music scene with Vietnam finally managing to lure some top-class overseas bands into the big cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
A lot of unusual and wonderful things have been happening but it all spells good news for music fans in this part of the world; there have even been some encouraging signs from the home-grown talent out there.
In May, The Ghost Inside played to 150 crazed fans at the Hard Rock Café in HCMC in one of Vietnam’s first successful efforts at crowdfunding, meaning the fans paid for the bands’ costs to come here as they were so desperate and smart-thinking enough to try this new venture. The four other bands on the bill, Hanoi’s Nuranium and 18+, Nemesis from Danang and Annalynn from Thailand, paid their own way to and from the show to entertain the city’s metal heads. The local metal scene seems to be very strong at this moment with a number of metal-focused nights in various locations nationwide pulling in the punters.
That very same month, Burmese indie rockers Bloodsugar Politik made their international debut at the first Artwork is Work: ASEAN Music Festival organized by the US Embassy in Hanoi and CAMA Vietnam, featuring the region’s best live outfits as well as art and community groups from within Hanoi at the American Club in the capital.
Joining in the fun were Thai funk act Molam International, Pulso (Philippines), Vietnam’s nu-metal heroes 18+, electronic sound artists MUON (Singapore), Saigon hip hop acts Nah, Wowy and Minh Kien, capital indie rockers Mimetals, Dalat DJ Slo-Lo, and Bangkok’s DJ Maft Sai, all making their Hanoi debuts.
Then in July we had the biggest-ever dance festival to hit these shores as A dOSe of Escape came to Diamond Island in District 2 in Ho Chi Minh City.
With 30 artists, five party sessions and two event stages, it was a pretty bold and spectacular event and hopefully will become an annual event, maybe even next time organizers can add bands to the mix for a summer festival along the lines of Glastonbury and T In The Park in the U.K., Rock al Parque in Bogota (Columbia) and Exit in Serbia, among the biggest festivals in the world. Although A dOSe of Escape is on a much smaller scale but you have to start somewhere. It did have some teething problems but I believe it will be the first of many summer festivals to lift the spirits of the nations’ music fans during the dark days of the rainy season.
Bloodsugar Politik were then brought down south to Cargo Bar in HCMC last month after blowing away HCMC promoter Rod Quinton at May’s ASEAN Music Festival in Hanoi, and are one of the best bands to play in this country in my humble opinion. It is great news for the indie rockers that they are able to play outwith Myanmar to get their music out to the world.
The most heartening aspect of that performance in Cargo Bar, on the local front, was my first experience of White Noiz, on backup but they are sure to be headliners in the years to come.
A female-fronted HCMC-based band is sure to attract attention for the novelty aspect alone but the three Vietnamese girls and one Turkish guy have something special.
They are hopefully on course to become the first Vietnam band to make it on a bigger stage. Lead singer Cu with her attitude and look, lyrics and powerful vocals has everything needed to achieve national and international acclaim with the backing of Quinton and his promotion team.
They formed in 2007 but it was only two years ago when the current line-up of Cu, Thao, Tam and Gokhan took shape and it was only then they started to make their mark.
Having been described in recent times as ‘one of the sexiest, most seasoned bands in Vietnam’ whose ‘filthy rock is blowing up in HCMC’ by some observers, White Noiz have built up a decent following nationwide but their sights are set on a Southeast Asian tour and the promised land of a record deal. I am certainly not betting against them going all the way. For the sake of Vietnamese rock music, they just have to. A huge responsibility is on their shoulders to make it to such a level that they inspire the next generation of musicians who inspire the next.
Can you imagine a Vietnamese band making it big worldwide? The patriotic nation’s music lovers would no doubt back them all the way as would the overseas Vietnamese.