VN TRIBES INTERVIEW Wednesday, 11 April 2012
The electronic music scene in Hanoi seems to be upgrading and evolving weekly! Synergy caught up with VN Tribes a fairly new duo of DjY and Pat who combine electronic beats with various samples and recordings collected from Vietnam.
Could you tell us how or why you formed VN TRIBES?
DjY : VN TRIBES is a logical path that leads 2 friends, who are also musicians, to start working together. Beyond that, we find that there is something fascinating in a country rich of 53 different ethnic minorities. Those tribes have their own culture, language and codes, and our music intends to reflect that. Sampling sounds everywhere in Vietnam, whether they come from people, traditional instruments or various ethnic and anachronistic noises... and input those sounds into a very contemporary music such as Techno is the very essence of our project.
Mr. Pat : I guess, we came to VN tribes very naturally, as two musician friends with a common interest for the culture of the country we live in for long now.
What is the background of yourself and Mr. Pat?
DjY : I touched my first desks when I was 14 (I am 37). That was also my first meeting with a DJ. In the Beginning of the 90's I followed a friend to a "Techno Rave Party" and that was it. From that day, I saved all the money I could to buy a mixer and 2 turntables and then vinyls. As a student, I was studying in the day, Djing in the night. My second home were the vinyls shop in Bastille area in Paris, waiting for the last EP that I would play the same night. Then I started to play on a more regular basis for clubs in Paris such as Rex, Queen, Batofar, Peniche Concorde, Wax Bar to name a few. I have played in London, Amsterdam, Ibiza and Barcelona.
In 2002 I left France for Vietnam where I have lived since then. I have played a lot in both Hanoi and Hô Chi Minh City with regular parties at Q Bar Saigon from 2002 to 2004. I have played at the closing of the Jazz Festival in Hanoi, at la Fête de la Musique in l'Espace (French Cultural Center), but also in many parties for Louis Vuitton or Gucci. A few years ago, I launched the Blue Glasses Experiment with my friend Bruno with no other purpose but to promote electronic music and soulful house. We are still doing parties today.
Mr. Pat : I have been in therapy with sounds for years now, that’s the way I treat my blue days and the way I like to celebrate happy ones. My doctor says I’ll be alright … !
Where do you get your inspiration from for the ethnic part of VN Tribes?
We are both living in Vietnam for over 10 years now. We are both married to a VN wife so even if we don't always understand people and customs here, a part of ourself is Vietnamese. Inspiration comes a lot with traveling. We are living in a city, but we love to grab the first opportunity to get away and get lost on the Northern "roads" of Vietnam. Our aim is to stop by inhabitants houses and share for few days their living. According to me, that is where I find the roots of my inspiration.
Mr. Pat : From the Vietnam ethnics people life (including Kinh). It reflects through sounds short cuts.
What are some the difficulties you have producing this type of music?
DjY : Being the DJ in our duet, I would say that my part is probably the easiest... I have always felt very relaxed playing as a DJ, even in front of a big crowd like in Paris. What turns to be a little more challenging is to pick up the right track that will match perfectly with the sounds recorded to generate a great reaction on the dancefloor. I admit that the music I play can be somehow be a little bit repetitive, so bringing unexpected sounds or vocals into it gives a true relief and brings the whole performance to another level that can federate a larger audience. But matching the samples with the music is surely the hardest part.
Mr. Pat : Getting to a deep Electro – Vietnamese sound that make sense and produce musical motion that actually « reaches » people…and not just playing stuff over a beat. Whatever difficulties, it is sure a lot of fun in the first place !
How have audiences reacted to VN Tribes?
DjY : As far as Vietnamese are concerned, I think it is a real new listening experience for them and many are surprised when they hear familiar sounds bouncing on the music. Some are getting closer from the DJ booth to try to understand how is the sound fabricated. I must say that this is something I really appreciate as a DJ, the fact that the audience can get very close to the DJ and vice versa.
Regarding the foreign public, most of the people we met welcome our work with a lot of enthusiasm. Although I don't like to give a name to try to define our music, I trust that we must be into some kind of exploration that one may call fusion music. Our sound is right at the cross section between past and future but should be listened to now :)
Mr. Pat : They dance ! Positive. Some try to get to understand where the hell does the sounds come from. Others don’t mind, they could hear a two step beat with a paso-doble line and it would be just the same !
What do you hope to achieve with VN Tribes?
DjY : As far as I am concerned, there is a dual aim in what we are doing. The first is to open a breach in electronic music that will hopefully enlarge the number of listeners in Vietnam. There is a wide crowd now for electronic music in Vietnam, however the quality of the programmation is rarely good. Clubs and bars often go for something commercial in a duplicated format week after week... Very few take the risk to give a green light to something different because at the end of the day, whether they invite International star Djs or Vietnamese new comers, the turnover will be roughly the same. So why should they spend more on "big names"...? There is still a lot of work ahead to "educate" the crowd if I may say.
That situation will only change once people start to be more picky and demanding about music and Djs. With 20 years experience in Electronic music, I try to play something different behind the desk to show how flexible that music can be. I am always driven by the groove.
The second goal is to enlighten vietnamese traditional music, voices and instruments by blending it with electro. It may sounds very daring and even absurd in some ways but the most important is to forget boundaries, spiritual walls and just do it. Some have mixed classic music with industrial rock and it turned to be utterly addictive.
Mr. Pat : I guess on my side I am trying to achieve a Vietnamese influenced harmonious new sound first...With VN tribes, I feel myself as an experimental architect trying to build a new kind of house. I see the tracks DjY plays as the groove and foundation and my part as the melody and interior design. To a certain degree, when both match, we create harmony and we’ve got our hit. As it is mostly a live process, sometimes it works, and sometimes not. We are just in the beginning of our search along with other artists such as « Vietvodahouse » or Le Cat Trong Ly, but we may find something in the end and if not the “trip” is already well worth it... I am looking forward to the future sound of Vietnam, whatever it may be or become.I hope as well we could meet more people interested with this subject, and get heard by more crowds
What advice would you give to new djs and producers?
DjY : Believe in what you are doing and listen to other artists, producers, musicians. Don't listen too much at yourself or the style you like but widen your vision in music and welcome change, it is particularly true for Vietnamese artists. As a DJ, playing the same tracks every night, over and over again is not being a musician. A computer would do it better...
Last but not least, play with your soul.
Mr. Pat : I have no particular advice to give … for Vietnamese young sound shapers I would say : Hey take it from where you belong ! Listen to your peoples sound.
What are your and Mr. Pats music influences?
DjY : Music is like my second wife :) I have always been very open to everything new I could listen although my main influences come from Blues, Soul, Funk, Black Music mostly. I am a big fan of percussions in all forms. I can listen to anything as long as there is a groove. I remember the first time I watched The Blues Brothers, that day changed my vision about music for ever.
Then in the mid 80's, a new kind of music emerged from Detroit and flooded literarily into Europe starting by Manchester. The Acid House movement was born, and I am extremely proud that I could be part of it. That was fresh, new, there was an air of freedom blowing on the music at that time. Free parties were organized pretty much everywhere in the nature and we suddenly realize that we didn't need to spend money to get into a club to have fun. The core of that phenomenon was the DJ long time before he became a superstar.... It was a very underground movement.
A lot of people said it would not last, how wrong they were... There are now so many ramifications within Electronic Music, and it welcomes more fans with different backgrounds everyday. House, Techno have proven to be a significant step in the evolution of music.
Mr. Pat : People voices and a little bit of the devil/angel power struggle inside me !
In Vietnam, Ethnic Dan ca, hat ru, the whole Vong Co school with Cai Luong, and Nhac Tai Tu, but also Quan Ho, Ca Tru and Hue court music, even funeral music … even the music played by the school in front of my house that nicely wake me up every morning…free alarm clock…they probably glue the volume knob up …
I have a profound respect for Trinh Cong Son work, particularly his Khanh Ly period.
Not to forget and in any occasion I would like to pay my special tribute to those blind guitarist-singers that one now can seldom hear in the streets of Vietnam. They play the most intriguing Vietnam “blues” I have ever knew of, and their kinda “Xam” music should be recorded and preserved.
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