For years I lamented the state of contemporary music in Vietnam: unoriginal and artificial. Only once in a looong while did an interesting name emerge: Lê Minh Sơn’s folk fusion (most notably as interpreted by the flirtatious Ngọc Khuê such as Chuồn chuồn ớt), the rock band Ngũ Cung (Cướp vợ, tục lệ người Mông), and most recently the meditative indie singer-songwriter Lê Cát Trọng Lý (Tám chữ có). The overwhelming majority of my playlists are foreign names or old Viet from 1940s-1970s. And that explains my excitement when a couple of months back I discovered a group of young underground rap and reggae artists, small but impressive. Some songs are funny while others thoughtful and poetic; lots have catchy tunes; and most importantly, they are sincere. Have been listening to them on repeat for a few weeks and still ain’t fed up. I’m gonna replay here my favorite pet theory that Vietnam’s history is repeating itself. In arts, specifically music and literature, the 1910s was searching and learning, the next decade was a lot of trials and brave first steps, and then a fast boom in the 30s all the way into the 40s. I just can’t wait to see.

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