We’re certain you’ve already seen the most-talked about musical performance of U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Dan Kritenbrink? But if you haven’t yet, watch it here, or read our conversation with the man of the hour himself.
The video - a collaboration of creative minds from Vietcetera, Wowy, Binz, U.S. Ambassador Kritenbrink and the U.S. Embassy and Consulate team, inspired by Rap Việt & Vie Channel - went viral, amassing more than 1.6 million combined views in less than 48 hours.
Could this be a milestone in the history of diplomacy in the digital age? Or, did the video become popular just because it was the first time we saw a diplomat rapping (and was actually good at it)?
So now, we’re taking you behind the scenes through these fun and surprising facts.
1. Not only this is the first time we see an ambassador rapping ...
… but this is also the first time the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam has done such a “risky” project. The idea came from Mr. Matt Ference, the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate. The concept grew from there. And when Vietcetera invited rapper Wowy and Binz to take on significant roles in the project, Matt exclaimed, “I never thought this idea would actually turn into something big!”
2. The beat was arranged in Laos.
Bill Takounsy, a 19-year-old musician who’s living in Laos, is the man behind the catchy melody. Although they’re based in Laos, Bill’s family celebrates Lunar New Year like any other Vietnamese family, which explains why the song has a very Vietnamese style and sound to it.
The lyrics were composed in Ho Chi Minh City, with the help of Matt Ference, who is a loyal fan of Rap Viet - a famous Vietnamese Rap Competition shown on Vie Channel in Vietnam.
But what surprised us the most was that both the beat and the lyrics were completed just three - yes, three! - days before we filmed the music video.
3. We only had four hours to film the music video in Hanoi.
Plus 45 more minutes in Ho Chi Minh City! Before we took Ambassador Kritenbrink and Wowy to the set, the Vietcetera team explored Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh to find good spots where we can safely shoot the music video. Some of our scenes were taken at the American Center and the Ambassador’s Residence to make the most out of the limited filming time. But most of the footage was filmed on the street, which the Ambassador clearly enjoyed.
On a bright and clear day in Hanoi, every alley and corner was filmworthy. From the Turtle Tower (Thap Rua) in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, the headquarter of Ha Noi Moi Newspaper, to stores selling Hàng Trống calendars, Hanoi’s most famous attractions were close to each other, so the whole filming period felt like a natural walk. A slight difference was that the crew had four bodyguards walking along and a bulletproof car following them.
4. There were two unscripted scenes.
One was in Hanoi, when a group of students stopped by to ask for a picture with rapper Wowy. We then invited them to the filming set. The other one was in Ho Chi Minh City, near the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Saigon, where a young lady wearing a beautiful ao dai happily joined the scene!
The bodyguards and some staff from the U.S. Embassy also appeared in the music video. Just before filming, one bodyguard hastily took off his sunglasses, but was then asked to wear them back. Without the glasses, he didn’t look like a bodyguard at all!
5. “Should I become a rapper instead?”
Asked the U.S. Ambassador Dan Kritenbrink, to rapper Wowy. Can you guess how Wowy responded?
The rapper paused for a moment, then politely said: “No, you shouldn’t!”
6. The MV was shared by several international media outlets, truly “taking the world by storm”.
It was first shared on news outlets like The Guardian, Washington Post, CNN, Yahoo, etc. Then Stanley Kirk Burrell (stage name: MC Hammer), the pioneer of the world's Pop-Rap scene who has won many awards, also retweeted the video. The ABS News Channel labeled Ambassador Dan Krintenbrink’s music video as a “Must-See Video” of the day. And the lyrics “I drink iced milk coffee, not cappuccino” (Tôi uống cà phê sữa đá, chứ không uống cappuccino) is considered the punchline of the whole song.
Hao Tran, CEO of Vietcetera Media, also received supportive messages from both local and international diplomatic communities. On the Vietcetera YouTube channel, many viewers praised the efforts put forth on the music video, as people pointed out that it was more than a musical performance, but a great way to strengthen the U.S.-Vietnam relationship.
7. Will there be more for the ‘Rapping Ambassador’?
According to the representative of Vie Channel, even though this is just a parody MV, the idea of building more projects for Ambassadors to rap and produce music as a form of cultural exchange, can be very promising in the future.
The rapping competition show ‘Rap Viet’ itself, has made rap music a phenomenon, being talked about for weeks in real life and the media. The Coaches on the show, including Vietnamese renowned rapper BinZ, Suboi, or Wowy, have also brought rap music beyond the borders in some ways.
So, how about we do a Rap Cypher for the diplomatic community and scale up cultural exchanges between countries?
With Ambassador Kritenbrink’s now viral rap video, that wouldn’t be too impossible of an idea, would it?