The days when world-renowned musicians such as Goldie, Diplo and DJ Premier pass through Saigon’s clubs on a regular basis may be on hold for the foreseeable future, but the scene has recently started showing signs of life again. Albeit in a slightly more refined and arty sense.
The Cultural and Cooperation Department of the French Consulate, HCMC Conservatory of Music and the German Goethe-Institut are the unlikely protagonists behind, as I like to put it, MK.II of Saigon’s music scene. Andhow refreshing it is that the consulates are actively contributing to Saigon’s contemporary culture, instead of merely facilitating visits by grey-suited politicians and diplomats that the people don’t even get to meet. I mean, did anybody even know that the Duke of York aka Prince Andrew came here again last month?!
Now, I appreciate that The Roland Tchakounte Trio, Nouveau Trio Gitan, DJ Eric M, Mouse On Mars and Igor Chystkletov may not be household names to you and I, but a night out watching these guys do their thing atvenues like the Opera House or the Thanh Nien Culture House sure beats another night misspent in Apocalypse Now or in the litany of downtown bars that have become oh so familiar.
I didn’t even know that gypsy-jazz existed before I decided to take a chance on watching the Nouveau Trio Gitan with an equally intrigued colleague earlier this week. And even though the gig didn’t exactly turn either of us into ardent gypsy-jazz devotees, it served as the perfect excuse to finally step foot into the opulent splendor of the Opera House (something I’d be meaning to do but never got around to since moving here one year ago).
With a Russian concert pianist, a German IDM dance duo and a French tech-media turntablist all to come this month at venues best described as being off the beaten track, November is shaping up to be the busiest and most eclectic month in Saigon’s social calendar in recent memory. My cultural taste buds are practically salivating. Now, if only the British Consulate would pull their finger out…