Historically Vietnam has been one of the hardest countries in the world to be successful when playing original music. This is not because it is a competitive market. Quite the contrary. Traditionally, the commercial music demand in Vietnam is for cover bands playing the same old songs. Over and over, the same old ones … How many times have you heard Hotel California or Uptown Funk? If you are a music lover like us, it’s maddening! Just as we are starting a new decade, it also seems as if Vietnam is on the threshold of breaking out of its cover music rut. There are many signs that we are about to witness a big step forward.
Whether it’s Suboi on the international Hip-Hop stage, indie darlings The Flob, or the punk-pop of 7UPPERCUTS, it’s going on here and now! Packed shows, festivals, and, most visibly, a music fan base that is exploding with energy given the youth of Vietnam’s demographics and a large number of music-loving expats now calling Vietnam home.
Of course, like everywhere in the world, social media is a massive driver for artists to get noticed. Youtube? We have Vietnamese artists like Ngọt or Isaac racking up millions of views. People all around the world are paying attention.
In another first, the Saigon indie band Skeleton Goode, fronted by the guitar guru Jack Briggs, has been receiving frequent airplay on the prestigious UK radio station BBC6. One of their DJs, Gideon Coe, is repeatedly playing a single off the SKG debut album, which was recorded right here in Bình Thạnh. A recent Coe show had Enamel Animal sandwiched in between songs from The Jam and The Clash. Really? If a Saigon band with a home-grown album can get slotted in between those two legends, then surely our city and our country as a whole are coming on strong.
It’s all so exciting! So much so that, your’s truly, Mr. Trouble, has created a new music blog called Vietnam Sound System. Check out some bands and watch a few videos Here
With all this, we have high hopes the 2020s will be the decade Vietnam’s original music scene explodes onto the global stage. It’s well deserved. There are still so many talented musicians here waiting to be heard.
Mr. Trouble (Anh Rắc Rối in Vietnamese) has a long history in music spanning both space and time from the earliest days of the California punk scene in the late 1970s to the darkest European goth scene centered around Belgium in the 1990s. Playing in many bands along the way, he was most notably a member of the San Francisco based band Dresden who was a fixture on the industrial club scene back in the time before mobile phones could take pictures. As a certified lover of nightlife, Mr Trouble served numerous posts in the 1980s nightclubs of Chicago and San Francisco, and the 1990s clubs of London and New York. He has only one regret – sunrise. After spending the last 21 years immersed in music and the literary arts in Saigon, you’ll perhaps spot him with his band Pretty Broken Dolls described as Saigon’s most dangerous band of pussycats. Today he also shares his knowledge in Bliss Saigon of what’s happening on the music front in Vietnam and all about the great stuff that makes our city and our country come alive when it comes to music.