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The keeper of vintage sounds in Saigon

Wednesday, July 01, 2020, 18:04 GMT+7
The keeper of vintage sounds in Saigon
Tran Minh Tri (right) works on a device while his son Anh Tu stands by at their radio repair shop on Vo Van Ngan Street in Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Located in a small kiosk on Vo Van Ngan Street, Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City is the radio repair shop of technician Tran Minh Tri and his son, which has been up and running for over four decades. 

After a four-decade-long career, Tri has not lost his passion for rejuvenating antique radios and cassette players to retain the treasured memory of vintage sounds.

The repair shop of 67-year-old technician Tri catches the eye of passers-by with its old-school signage that has been kept from the early post-war years. 

Tri learned the trade of radio repair from his brother and has kept the heritage alive in his shop for the past 40 years.

In recent years, the shop has seen a significant downturn in its customer base, leaving only a few loyal visitors.

Because of the slowdown, Tri has had to take up working as a ‘xe om’ motorbike taxi driver as a side job to support his family.

“Yet, I still want to keep the shop running to cure the ‘disease’ for them [the radios] and let the old sounds have their own world,” Tri said.

He stores a plethora of vintage pieces and gadgets from the past century in the mere two-square-meter area of his kiosk.

The technician has acquired hands-on experience in repairing virtually every product line within the realm of radios and cassette players. 

No matter how much time or effort it takes, he never fails to figure out the issue and find the right spare parts to fix his customers' devices.

Tran Minh Tri repairs radio devices in the two-square-meter kiosk on Vo Van Ngan Street in Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Tran Minh Tri repairs radio devices in the two-square-meter kiosk on Vo Van Ngan Street in Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Tri and his son Anh Tu are a fixture at the shop. 

Tu has limited mobility as a victim of Agent Orange, the heavy-duty poison the U.S military sprayed in Vietnam that has caused crippling health issues to generations of Vietnamese people.

Still, Tu takes on a variety of tasks, from watching the shop, receiving customer calls, noting down home repair requests, helping Tri repair complex electric circuit boards to putting away repaired gadgets. 

According to Tri, there are two options for repairing a radio, depending on the condition of the device: recovery or replacement.

In the shop, there have been instances of antique, seemingly unsalvageable devices that were brought back to life thanks to Tri's diligence.

Tri said the avid collectors as well as the people who fix radio devices find it too hard to give up the antique equipment for new tech pieces. 

This means the work will go on for Tri, as long as the flame of passion endures.

Tran Minh Tri uses a magnifying glass to solder a circuit board at the radio repair shop on Vo Van Ngan Street in Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Tran Minh Tri uses a magnifying glass to solder a circuit board at his radio repair shop on Vo Van Ngan Street in Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

An antique radio is being fixed by Tran Minh Tri in this photo taken in his shop on Vo Van Ngan Street in Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

An antique radio is being fixed by Tran Minh Tri in this photo taken in his shop on Vo Van Ngan Street in Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Tran Minh Tri (right) prepares for a motorbike taxi gig, leaving his son Anh Tu taking care of the repair shop on Vo Van Ngan Street in Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Tran Minh Tri (right) prepares for a motorbike taxi gig, leaving his son Anh Tu taking care of the repair shop on Vo Van Ngan Street in Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Tran Minh Tri (right) and his son Anh Tu sit in front of their radio repair shop on Vo Van Ngan Street in Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Tran Minh Tri (right) and his son Anh Tu sit in front of their radio repair shop on Vo Van Ngan Street in Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

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