Thursday, 21/04/2011 11:18

Culture Vulture

The fourth international electronic music festival, Hanoi Sound Stuff, was held last week in Ha Noi, where 20 artists from Germany, France, Austria, Malaysia, Thailand and Viet Nam performed. Eletronic music artist Tri Minh, the festival's organiser and a leading producer and innovator in the genre in Viet Nam, talks with Culture Vulture about the event.

Many people think that electronic music is hard to understand. Do you agree?

Yes. Electronic music is a special genre of music, which attracts a small number of people. We created the Hanoi Sound Stuff event to provide individual artists from Viet Nam and abroad with the chance to meet and exchange skills.

The music at this festival is infused with several genres of music so that it is not too inaccessible to the Vietnamese audience, who are more familiar with pop.

Could you tell me more about the history and the development of the eletronic music in Viet Nam?

While more developed countries started to experiment with electronic music in the early 20th century, it wasn't until the 1960s when the genre became popular with western audiences following the development of computer technology. In Viet Nam, in the mid-1990s, electronic composers such as Quoc Trung, Nguyen Trung Son, Nguyen Van Cuong, Kim Ngoc and Vu Nhat Tan began to perform.

During that time, I was playing jazz. Then, with the help of the British Council, I started to compose my very first works with other Vietnamese artists. Since 2004, I have been invited to perform at various events.

The development of electronic music is still rather limited in Viet Nam, which has been caused by a lack of State investment.

The first pioneering artists in the genre are just like sprouts, who need care and investment from the State so they can grow into big trees. The electronic scene has still developed, albeit slowly.

How did you manage to organise such an annual event?

Well, before organising the first festival in 2008, we were bogged down with two obstacles. The first one was money, which we could deal with. The second one was attracting talent because Vietnamese music at that time wasn't popular enough to persuade international artists to join.

The past four years have been challenging for us to establish relationships so we can invite international artists to perform in Viet Nam.

Since 2006, I performed at various international festivals all over the world to exchange, study and promote Viet Nam's image with help from the British Council and the Goethe Institute.

After receiving my direct and indirect proposals, many artists showed their willingness to join the electronic music festival.

How did you establish yourself and develop your performance skills?

I have tried to apply a "Vietnamese music space" into my electronic compositions. I remember my performance in France in 2009, when I performed Am Thanh Ha Noi (Ha Noi Sounds), many overseas Vietnamese, who had been living abroad for a long time, were moved to tears as they listened to the real sounds from daily life in Viet Nam.

This proved that my style was suitable with contemporary tastes and brought people into a unique music space.

At another festival in Germany, I sampled a ca tru (ceremonial music piece) by singer Pham Thi Hue and also dropped some of her traditional lute sounds into my compositions.

I think electronic music, which doesn't sample Vietnamese traditional music, will develop like the genre has globally, but it still needs more time to grow.

What do you think it will take to make electronic music more popular with Vietnamese people?

Audience gradually embrace cultural products with time and exposure. Viet Nam is not outside the flow. For example, few Vietnamese liked South Korean music a few years back, but then South Korean music became popular in Viet Nam. Now many Vietnamese artists are emulating South Korean music.

Vietnamese music is developing slower than the global average. I can imagine that the development of music in the world is like a spiral, which gets wilder and wider. Pop/rock and hip-hop have been popular for a while, but another trend will appear.

I think two factors will persuade audiences to develop a fondness for electronic music. Firstly, artists should be responsible for their compositions. Secondly, audiences should equip themselves with enough knowledge about different genres of electronic music. — VNS

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