While the fame of her singer sister, Le Cat Trong Ly, grows at an exponential rate, Le Cat Tien has chosen a different, more grounded path. Owner, singer and main attraction of Nep Café, she’s one of the people keeping the peace in Danang. Photo by Nick Ross


I called my café ‘Nep’ because... that word fell from the sky at the moment I needed a name for my café. When someone asks, I’ll reply in various ways, depending on who’s asking. After all, the name is just a name.


In Saigon, Nep Café... in that one year [2008] really did live and die exactly the way I wanted it to.


I sing songs... both in Vietnamese and English, usually old songs. They have killer tunes and the lyrics are deep and philosophically sophisticated. That way it’s easier to intrigue the talks [in between].


I learned to sing… from my heart and the experiences of my life.


In between songs, I tell... a few stories and talk about random things. Sometimes they mean something deep, sometimes they don’t mean anything — to test if people are really dying in my café or not.


I love playing with words because... I don’t know how to twist my wrist or ankle or shake my body like other women. I only have a long throat with a pretty mouth and a love for things that people are shy and afraid to speak of, or don’t want to admit in their life. And I use my words to turn it into something easier to accept.


Creatively, I consider myself... just a woman telling her stories with the wild voice of a soul that has mixed experiences between black and white.


To me, quiet means... you are here, sitting still, and... you’re almost brain-dead. Yeah, being dead for a little bit is okay. Um, and then I sing while you’re faking dead. I want that at Nep. It’s great.


People embrace Nep’s quiet because... they always have to live, not much chance to die [she laughs].


The owls of Nep Café are there to... stalk people and then report back to me [still laughing].


The community that’s sprung up around Nep... I call angelic demons. These 18 to 20 kids who came to Nep and befriended me — I want to share my experiences with them, so they can do what they want in life with more courage, and create more pretty flowers by these loves.


My sisters... are just as beautiful as I am, but way smarter, because none of them like making people dead a little bit every day like me. This is a tough job.


My father... is the same, he seems like he loves me a lot as well as is proud of me. He’s always said that behind my back.


My children... I guess will grow up and be very proud of their mother when they’ve grown up — and their mother is already some place far, far away.


I moved back to Danang because... sometimes Saigonese have to go somewhere far from home to find Nep to die. I think it’s fun!


To me, Danang means... a badass place to die.


Nep Café is at 15 Hoang Van Thu, Hai Chau, Danang. Music starts most nights at 8.15pm and ends before 10pm. Arrive promptly and observe the mood, the owls are watching


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