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The live music scene in Hanoi

July 27, 2013 DESTINATION No Comments Email Email

The capital city of Vietnam is considered to be a live music lover’s paradise, and the most difficult thing is deciding which gig to go to. Let’s discover this live music world from the perspective of a foreigner.

Music plays an important role for many young people. It reflects and affects our moods and feelings, it creates nostalgia and in short, provides the soundtrack to our lives. We all need a bit of music everyday and sometimes laptop speakers just won’t cut it. On those days, you need the music to be live and loud.

Before moving to Hanoi in February, I had no idea what to expect in terms of gigs. I was worried that I might not be able to get a live music fix for the duration of my stay here. And honestly, a year without seeing any bands or musicians sounded like hell to me.

In the major Australian cities, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane (where I hail from) there are gigs of all different genres to suit any kind of budget from Thursday to Sunday night, also a lot of weeknights too.

In Brisbane, true to its roots, punk or punk influenced shows are in abundance, indie pop has never seen better days and futuristic electro shows are on the rise. How could Hanoi possibly reach my high standards for live music?

Luckily, I needn’t have worried! Thanks to some admirable collectives and key venues, Hanoi is beginning to be established as a live music lover’s paradise. Once you are clued in with those people and places, the most difficult thing is deciding which gig to go to!

Upon settling in Hanoi, your first point of call should be the Facebook page for Hanoi Rock City. This group of musicians, DJs and artists have been bringing big sounds to Hanoi since 2010. Their focus is mostly on giving a leg-up to emerging acts however; they do dedicate some nights to making sure their audiences get a chance to catch the latest international acts.

Hanoi Rock City boasts an impressive line-up of electro, experimental, reggae, rock and alternative acts that will most definitely float the boat of any gig lover. Located in the ex-pat filled district of Tay Ho, Hanoi Rock City has a vibrant atmosphere and pleasing prices.

Another fantastic collective devoted making Hanoi as musical as possible are the crew at CAMA Vietnam. CAMA are a collective “dedicated to bringing the best of independent music to Vietnam”. And bring it they do. With over 60 international acts to date, CAMA are certain to become any indie kid’s hero for their work.

Giles Cooper, the founder of CAMA, says he started the collective simply because there was no live music on offer in Hanoi. Cooper saw that as a gap in the market that sorely needed to be filled and he has certainly done an impressive job in doing so.

“The luxury of choice is starting to emerge in Hanoi,” Cooper says, “More people are stepping up to the plate and doing things.” Artists, musicians, venues and promoters are working harder than ever to bring local and international acts of all genres to the audiences of Hanoi.

CAMA host gigs at their very own venue, CAMA ATK. Conveniently located in Hai Ba Trung, CAMA ATK looks like a cross-between a 1920s speakeasy and a grungy 90s den. To catch the latest on gigs happening there, find them on Facebook here.

For bigger acts from the US, the American Club occasionally brings in festivals and shows that include international hip hop artists with local, Vietnamese artists supporting. Interested parties should keep their eyes peeled for a Shabazz Palaces gig on June 22.

Chez Xuan is another venue bringing in the live acts – their shtick is reggae bands performing most weekends, which is big with the ex-pat crowd and very relaxing in their garden bar on a Sunday afternoon.

Finally, the Hanoi Social Club offers intimate, acoustic performances by small time but popular Western artists from the UK and Australia (amongst other places) for extremely reasonable prices.

CAMA’s shows tend to be for the more specific music lover, whereas Hanoi Rock City is perfect for those who just love any music that’s loud and live. The American Club is more hip hop and funk oriented and Chez Xuan is almost solely reggae.

Giles Cooper says (and I agree), “The future [of the live music scene in Hanoi] is bright without question, provided the residents of Hanoi realise they play a critical role in its growth.”

So what are you waiting for? Put on your dancing shoes, hit up a gig and do your bit for Hanoi’s live music scene!

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