Unveiling the Vietnamese underground with Nhung Nguyen

Vietnam Vietnam

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about an experimental ambient compilation from Vietnam called Emergence, curated by the Hanoi-based artist Nhung Nguyen (aka Sound Awakener). We were eager to know more about independent music scenes in Vietnam, so we reached out by email and dropped her a few questions.

MusicMap: Describe where you live in ten words or less

Nhung Nguyen: I live in Hanoi – a city full of sounds.

When did you start making your own music and what was it like to begin with?

I started making music back in 2011, after years of listening to and discovering experimental and contemporary music. All I wanted was to construct my own sonic language and to create an atmosphere where I could get lost and find myself at the same time (and hopefully the listeners too). I began making music on my laptop, collecting sounds that I found and processing them.

What equipment do you use now?

My setup nowadays is a combination of digital equipment and some found objects: laptop, MIDI controllers, audio interface, some cassette tape loops, a radio and some children’s toys. I use Ableton for most of my performances because it helps me sketch ideas quickly. For studio work, I use Reaper. Sometimes, I collect field recordings with my portable recorder – a Tascam DR 40 – a simple and effective way to capture sounds from [my] surroundings.

How did the idea of producing/curating Emergence come up?

The production of this release started quite a long time ago… back in 2015. At that time, Kate Carr from the label Flaming Pines and I worked together on my single which was released as a part of the label’s Tiny Portraits series. After that, I asked Kate if Flaming Pines was interested in releasing a Vietnamese experimental music compilation. I was very inspired by the Iranian music compilation that Flaming Pines curated and released before [Absence, 2016]. Kate agreed with this idea and then we started discussing which artists we would invite.

Where would be the perfect place to listen to enjoy Emergence?

Anywhere – I think. I recommend headphone listening for this release.

Where in the world would you most like to perform?

So many places I can think about! But right now it should be an indoor place with good acoustics, like a church.

Who’s your biggest local musical influence, past and/or present?

I think the most appropriate thing to say is that I am inspired by local artists in Vietnam. One of them is Nguyen Hong Giang – an experimental/noise music artist and producer that I really admire. He works with a variety of genres, sonic elements and different kinds of setups.

What are the biggest challenges faced by musicians in Vietnam?

I want to speak my point of view about the underground scene in Vietnam only, since right now I am not associated with the mainstream music industry.

Like I wrote in the description of Emergence, the biggest challenge for underground scene in general and experimental musicians in Vietnam is the lack of resource and opportunity: venues, educational programs (e.g courses, workshops), exhibitions, commissions and so on.

What are the top things you’d suggest music fans visiting Hanoi should go and see/do/eat/drink?

For food and drink I strongly recommend trying out street food and the coffee culture in Hanoi. Apart from going and seeing the historical sites, I think exploring the art scene in Hanoi is a good idea – there are performances, art talks and exhibitions in various art spaces and music venues in the city.

Can you send us a photo of the view from your window?

Here is it – this is the view from a dance studio in Hanoi where I came for a workshop back in March.

Nhung Nguyen

Nhung Nguyen, thank you. 

by Editor
May 29, 2018

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