Hanoi Masters

Hanoi Masters: preserving and sharing the sound of the Vietnam War.

hanoi masters

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Similar to INFRACom!, Glitterbeat’s Hanoi Masters is a music compilation that aims to preserve and share the sound of Vietnamese music during a specific era. Hanoi Masters is a collection of field recordings of Vietnam War-era songs recorded by Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan. The songs were recorded live on traditional instruments and capture the mood of a country during and after the devastating war.

From Bandcamp:

“The first volume of Glitterbeat’s new series of releases: Hidden Musics. Each Hidden Musics release will feature un-mediated “field” recordings of lesser-known global music traditions.

“Hanoi Masters: War is a Wound, Peace is a Scar” is a haunting audio document recorded in the summer of 2014 by Grammy-award winning producer Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Malawi Mouse Boys, The Good Ones). The sepia-tinged songs are sung and played live and direct by elderly Vietnamese musicians using half-forgotten traditional instruments. These musicians all have deep personal connections to the upheavals of the Vietnam War and the album’s mesmerizing mood navigates the blurred line between raw beauty and sadness.

40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, a war these Hanoi musicians still call the “American War”, the wounds and scars of that era are ever-present. “Hanoi Masters” is an album of cautious healing and an unforgettable meditation on conflict, resistance, collective memory, and the longing for what has been lost.

In the liner notes of the album, producer Ian Brennan discusses the experience of making “Hanoi Masters”:

‘We had gone to Hanoi to record veterans from their side. Some were music masters, one of whom had joined the army at age thirteen and whose job it was
to sing to the troops to boost morale and provide solace. Another was a former AK-47 issued village leader who had not sung in over forty years, and proved to be the most dead-on vocally. She did not hide or adorn, but quietly revealed muted emotions that a microphone often can detect more easily than face-to-face interaction. Then, immediately afterwards, she withdrew back into a stoic shell.

The streets of Hanoi are an almost direct inversion of western cities, with hordes of scooters displacing and grossly outnumbering cars. The chaotic ballet of riders, sometimes four or five to a single motorcycle, is offset by the reserve of the
riders. Many are masked to ward off pollution and only once was there witnessed even the slightest reaction to all the incessant horns and traffic violations by others.

Those who dismiss Asian music as without an edge, may have simply overlooked the intricacy. With a whammy-bar technology that dates back to the 9th century, it is fair to say that Vietnamese traditions had a bit of a head start over the headbangers of the 1980’s. A startling revelation was a plucked instrument (the K’ni) that is clasped between the teeth as the local dialectic language is spoken through the
single string. What sounds like an extraterrestrial instrumental to the uninitiated actually contains coded, poetic lyrics. Again, futurist innovators like Theremin, clearly arrived a
little later to the party than commonly claimed.

Let it suffice to say that these artists are a far cry from the lip-synching
karaoke show that we saw on the local cable, with groups of teenagers
cavorting on a soundstage and mouthing the words to K-pop songs—air-Karaoke, if you will—that managed to render something pre-fab even less real.

These elders carry a haunting, but muted sadness that seems only fully revealed through the music that they valiantly keep alive in the face of industrialization, waning regard and interest, and the rapid homogenization and “progress” overtaking their homeland.'”

Hanoi Masters/Glitterbeat: Website Facebook Twitter SoundCloud

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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INFRACom!

INFRACom!: discover south Vietnam’s lost “Golden Age” of pop music.

INFRACom!

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INFRACom! is a Frankfurt, Germany-based label that for over 20 years has released 160+ globally-minded, eclectic productions. The label’s latest release is ‘Saigon Supersound Vol. 1,’ which celebrates south Vietnam’s lost “Golden Age” of pop music from the ’60s and ’70s inspired by soul, funk, and, for better or worse, America.

From the Bandcamp bio:

“Saigon Super Sound is the story of a musical era that was almost lost. The selection of tracks is limited to the period between 1965 and 1975, the so-called ‘Golden Era’ in the South of Vietnam, where – under difficult circumstances – a lively pop culture had developed.

The music of Vietnam in the sixties was shaped by three currents: Nhạc đỏ (“red music” or communist revolutionary music) had developed around the beginning of the 20th century in opposition to the French colonization of Indochina. It usually promoted independence, socialism and anti-capitalism in its lyrics and was the dominant genre in the communist North. These were mostly heroic songs celebrating the men and women who left their families to bravely fight against the French and, soon enough, also the US Army.

This collection focuses on the South, where under “imported” western influence a new kind of pop and rock music had developed: Nhạc Vàng (“yellow music” or “golden music”), Nhạc Trẻ (“young music”). Nhạc Vàng are poetic, often sentimental and sad love songs (Tình Khúc) as well as simple, easily accessible compositions which praised the beauty of the homeland (Quê hương).

This genre had also developed since the 1920’s under French colonial influence, namely the chanson that was much appreciated by the growing Vietnamese bourgeoisie. Latin rhythms and dances such as the Bolero, the Rumba, Tango and Cha Cha Cha as well as Slow Rock were also integrated into the standard repertoire…When the Americans entered the war, they also brought rock- ́n’-roll and soul music to Vietnam which became quite influential for local artists. “Young music” (Nhạc Trẻ) was performed by newly formed bands like Dew Drop, The Dreamers, CBS Band and The Strawberry Four.

There were all female bands too, such as the Blue Stars (of whom, unfortunately, no usable recordings have survived) who performed at the G.I. Clubs. They covered American rock and soul hits, translating or simply making up new lyrics in Vietnamese. Very few of these were even recorded, but many popular singers – including Hùng Cường, Mai Lệ Huyền and Carol Kim – added “imported” styles like Twist, Soul, Agogo, Surf and Mashed Potatoes to their repertoire of popular ballads.

The third, very popular form was Cải Lương, best translated into “theater music” in which pieces of music alternate with spoken word passages to form a kind of radio play. The last title of this collection, “7 câu vọng cổ chúc Tết“ gives you an idea of this genre. Its musical structure is based on a Vietnamese composition from the early 20th century, the Vọng Cổ which was (and is) very popular in Cải Lương as well as in Vietnamese chamber music.”

INFRACom!: SoundCloud Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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