Thursday, July 18, 2013

Psychedelic Saigon

Sublime Frquencies (Seattle, Washington, USA): Saigon Rock & Soul: Vietnamese Classic Tracks 1968-1974 2-LP SF060.

This collection is a mind-blower, but as soon as you think about it, everything makes perfect sense. Of course there was a music scene "on the scene" in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) during the US-Vietnam War. Of course there was more going on than that reflected in Hollywood movies about the war. Yes, there were and are Vietnamese people, too! South, North and everything in between.

I've known several Vietnamese Americans and all of them have had rich, complicated family histories. One was a stewardess who emigrated to the States in the late 1960s, having married a GI. Another, an entrepreneur in Philadelphia, was raised Catholic and brought with her two sisters by her mother -- initially to Omaha, Nebraska, in the early 1970s. Her father remained in country, fighting for the North. Texas has a large Vietnamese population, too, fanning out from eateries to goods and services businesses and into local colleges. I've worked with many Vietnamese students in Philadelphia, Detroit and in Texas, working on basic English writing skills, and am always struck by how poetic Vietnamese turns of phrase are, even when morphed into English. For these reasons and more, it's with great delight that I choose this collection for today's post. 

To quote from Sublime Frequencies' product description: Every song is a mini-masterpiece be it heavy acid rock psychedelia, horn and guitar drenched funk grooves, or gripping soul ballads reflective of life during wartime. The tracks that form this collection cut a window into a rich musical Vietnamese music scene that has long been obscured, and for the most part, forgotten. As the scope of electrified Vietnamese music from the 1960s and 1970s begins to be revealed, it becomes evident that this was among the heaviest and most eclectic musical scenes of South East Asia at the time. These songs tell of war, love and what war does to love. All of them were recorded in makeshift studios and even US army facilities while the Vietnam War raged – and were issued by a handful of Saigon record companies on vinyl 45s and reel or cassette tapes.

One of my favorite tracks so far is this one by Thành Mái: "Tóc Mai Sợi Vắn Sợi Dài (Long, Uneven Hair)." It's got a trippy tempo with strong vocal. For more from Sublime Frequencies, here's a link. I'm a big fan.

Today's Rune: Joy.                                         


Charles Gramlich said...

We get quite a few Vietnamese Americans as students at Xavier. One of my best students of the last ten years fell into that category. We still stay in touch.

jodi said...

Erik-I have learned more about Vietnam and it's people from having mani/Pedi's done in their salons. One of the girls usually has me taste her lunch goodies, and it's always great!