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BUDX Ho Chi Minh City: Tastemakers Defining Underground Culture in Vietnam

This post is also available in: Vietnamese

BUDX is a global series of activities organized by the Budweiser brand, aiming to honor and encourage young talents in the field of music, culture, and fashion. A series of music parties, arts and culture celebrations, live conversation, and cultural conferences come together to form this whole event, dedicated for the true underground followers. This past May, Ho Chi Minh City was greatly honored to be one of the seven cities globally chosen to host BUDX.

Held within 3 days from the 28th to the 30th of May, BUDX Ho Chi Minh City successfully assembled a variety of brand names and outstanding underground artists in Vietnam in the region and from around the world. These artists are representatives of the modern subculture wave that is becoming increasingly more popular. Electronic music, graffiti art, Vietnamese streetwear, Drag Queen Centro Team are just a few of the trends in the lineup.

BUDX Ho Chi Minh City is an opportunity for young Vietnamese people to access rising subcultures. BUDX opens up new perspectives and brings valuable experiences to the new generation. With the programming on offer at BUDX, young Vietnamese can build self-confidence as they continue on their own journeys, crafting their own artistic identities and talents.

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Drag Queen Centro Team.

After an interactive panel discussion with MC Thuy Minh, Vietcetera had a chance to meet with three of the representatives privately to learn more about the creative fields they are pursuing.

Who are they? How did they approach this field and how long have they stayed with it? And most importantly, as trendsetters, how have they participated in defining their communities?

Join Vietcetera as we recap what happened at BUDX Ho Chi Minh City, through the sharings of graffiti artist Danny Daos, hip-hop artist Rhymastic, and Touliver, SpaceSpeakers’ “oldest brother”, also known as the “rhythm enchanter.”

BUDX is a global series of activities organized by the Budweiser brand, aiming to honor and encourage young talents in the field of music, culture, and fashion.

Danny Daos: Graffiti art, freedom and fear

Graffiti, the art of street painting, came into being in the 70s in New York City. It was not until the early 2000s that this genre was brought into Vietnam, starting from Hanoi and gradually spreading to other cities.

However, since it was a very spontaneous movement, developed by small, individual communities, Vietnamese graffiti was not clearly defined aesthetically and no one individual could shape the “Viet” nature in graffiti back in the days.

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Graffiti artist Danny Daos (right).

“Everything happened very freely and liberally. That was why “chaos is a special feature of Viet graffiti, until this day,” said Danny Daos.

Danny Daos was introduced to graffiti art in his middle school, through a foreign music video. At that time, the image of a wall filled with all the vibrant colors fascinated him. Later, he knew of it as “graffiti.”

“Before that, I had been doing some painting, but graffiti was something completely different from what I used to paint,” said Danny, “not just a pen or a paper, graffiti is a whole experience. The fact that you stand in front of a wall bigger than yourself and pick up the spray bottle requires a lot of technique.”

“Graffiti is also the feeling of freedom and fear intertwined. When you arbitrarily ‘graffiti’ on someone’s wall, then you run, but still stubbornly go back to finish your painting,” he said with a smile.

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“Graffiti is also the feeling of freedom and fear intertwined. When you arbitrarily ‘graffiti’ on someone’s wall, then you run, but still stubbornly go back to finish your painting,” he said with a smile.

“But as with everything there is, the goods, the bads and the contradictions go hand in hand. So is graffiti. There’s a thin line between the desire to express one’s self-identity and the misconceptions with graffiti. In the old days, people fought. But nowadays, people go online to abuse verbally through texts. So no matter how liberal it is, there should always be some rules. For example, when painting on someone else’s work, you have to cover the whole old painting as a way to show your respect to the previous painter,” Danny shares.

According to Danny, although more and more young people are participating in this community, Viet graffiti is still “fluttering.” “If you consider graffiti as an art form, it will be very difficult to live with it. The world’s graffiti artists are lucky because they have the opportunity to advance in their careers, to show their works at museums, galleries, and to be appreciated.”

“That good fortune is what the people here are still searching for. I am also searching, but I believe that when I work seriously, more people will be recognized. Not only in the art world, but also by friends and the middle-aged audiences. It’s my responsibility to be here to keep the fire burning so that young people can join me!” Danny concludes.

Rhymastic: Bring hip-hop to “the next level”

“If the hip-hop setting in Vietnam in 2006 was like a ‘child given a strange toy’, then today, Viet hip-hop hit its highest peak ever,” shares Rhymastic, the rapper, musician, and music producer.

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Rhymastic (Vu Duc Thien), the rapper, musician, and music producer.

Rhymastic shares that hip-hop’s achievement is due to the togetherness of the community. Everyone in the community can rely on each other. Individuals in the community have been supportive of each other from the early days of making hip-hop music. They have loyal audiences and they always respect and support hip-hop to their very best, despite hip-hop having a mostly niche type of audience.

From starting as an architecture student to becoming one of the faces of Vietnamese underground, Rhymastic (Vu Duc Thien) has come a long way on his journey of self-discovery. In his own words, Rhymastric describes rap as “a genre of music that reflects freedom, self, and everyday life in a genuine way. That’s why rappers always have to write their own words.”

With his free spirit and with his love for the beauty of Vietnamese literature, Rhymastic shares that these two personality traits helped him become the rapper that he is today. Aside from knowledge and curiosity for rhetoric, an impressive rap song also requires the artist’s ability to use words, most notably puns and metaphors.

Rhymastic’s broad knowledge of music means that his rap songs have been mixed with many kinds of music such as funk, dubstep, and trap, helping to create diverse trends.

Although he was taught to write poems by his grandfather, Rhymastic shares that his background with poetry proved to be only a small advantage, because the rhythm in rap is much more complex. In poetry, you only need to spell one word in a sentence, whereas in rap the range may be from two to more than ten words in a sentence. The only way to become proficient is to practice by reciting the words in the undertone every day and hour to make it a habit.”

Furthermore, Rhymastic’s broad knowledge of music means that his rap songs have been mixed with many kinds of music such as funk, dubstep, and trap, helping to create diverse trends. This has played a role in transforming Vietnamese music in a more modern way.

According to his prediction, Viet hip-hop in the coming years will no longer revolve around the topic of love, instead focusing more on community-based content. The lyrics will also be incorporated with more relaxed and gentle melodies. For Rhymastic, he feels that personalities such as Suboi, Den Vau, Da Lab are the ‘aces’ in spreading that trend because they have diverse perspectives and performance styles.

Touliver: The journey of finding the trademark style of a “rhythm enchanter”

Young people can immediately identify Touliver’s electronic music as it features distinct and catchy melodies. “Having a trademark is imperative and is a life-or-death matter for an artist. Artists all work with the same tools, and even sometimes the same music samples, but the difference maker is often times the personality and process method that can create the game changing self-identity of an artist.”

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Music producer Touliver (right).

“I love the old-school Vietnamese love songs. So the color of my music is a mixture of lyricalness and sadness of timeless songs along with the modern rhythms of electronic music, mixing in unique, characterful sounds,” Touliver shares.

“I originally never set a specific strategy for myself. For me, maintaining my own trademark is simply to focus on doing what I like, not comparing myself with others or being afraid of anyone.”

Still, Touliver’s distinctive trait is not expressed solely through his musical works, but also in his personality and manner of work.

“Creative producers should design a timetable for themselves so as to strike a balance between work and health,” he explains. “When I was young, I worked at night because of the calmness. But now I start working at seven in the morning. That’s the time when my brain is most active and fresh. Other than that, I have one tip on how to preserve creative inspiration: get off from your work desk and play some sports.”

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“To achieve our goals, we have to take the initiative in everything. No one will find help ready and waiting,” said Touliver.

In order to be successful, Touliver shares that having a passion is not enough. Young people need to work seriously, have a realistic perspective, as well as be proactive in every decision they make. “To achieve our goals, we have to take the initiative in everything. No one will find help ready and waiting. Nonetheless, I have a rule, which is to allow myself to try everything five times at most. If I still haven’t achieved anything after five attempts, I will give up and focus on other things.”

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This post is also available in: Vietnamese