Three Hanoian expats have dug into Vietnam’s musical past to create a hip hop single entitled “Oi Gioi Oi” — a track that hails the joys and pains of living in modern day Hanoi.
British MC Ian Paynton, known by stage name EP, the Hanoi Sessions duo of the enigmatic Hanoi Funkmaster (Japan) and JC Smith (UK) have teamed up to in their spare time to create an entertaining and positive take on the capital, which often takes its fair share of criticism from expats, tourists and locals alike.
Dusting off old Vietnamese tracks with their elusive drum breaks, vocals, horns and guitar riffs then fusing them to a deliberately old-school hip hop aesthetic, Oi Gioi Oi serves up something original for Vietnam’s hip-pop scene.
“I suppose it came about because none of us really liked the music we were hearing when we got here,” said music producer JC Smith. “Contemporary Vietnamese pop music really isn’t gaining transnational appeal as to my mind it sounds derivative of South Korean, Japanese and Chinese Western style pop.
“I’d been searching for some underground hip-hop that was distinctively Vietnamese and not just MTV photocopies, but hadn’t found it… ‘Oi Gioi Oi’ is how Vietnam may have sounded on the hip hop front if people had sampled traditional tracks.”
Hanoi Funkmaster, who has had two spells of living in the capital over the last decade explained, “I like funk and soul, and an appreciation of these sounds is hard to find here. But it existed and their influences can be heard in some Vietnamese tracks from the 1970s. Combine that with my music background growing up listening to hip hop giants like A Tribe Called Quest, I suppose this is what you’d get”.
Ian on vocals takes his lyrical inspiration from UK rap and the buzz of Hanoi.
“Oi Gioi Oi is probably the first thing every foreigner learns when they get here — it can be used in so many ways, as an exclamation of disgust, disappointment, excitement; it’s fun and seems to encapsulate almost anything,” he said.
“I know that, for foreigners, living in Hanoi can be a love-hate thing sometimes, hence lyrics like, ‘there’s so much to love, not the noisy stuff’, or the reference to ‘organised chaos’,” said Ian. “The city’s dynamic, entertaining, frustrating and chaotic in equal amounts, which has its good and bad sides”.
“It’s a deliberate homage to the past of both hip-hop and Vietnamese popular music. Both genres were extraordinarily varied and ground breaking, and there’s a whole musical treasure trove of old Vietnamese popular music waiting to be rediscovered. Of course we’re not saying we know better then anyone else, if anything we’re hoping people will think, ‘ if they made that, then we can do it’.
“Plus there’s already great bass-orientated stuff and crate-digging (searching out rare tracks from the past) being done by DJ Jase in Ho Chi Minh City, and French-Vietnamese overseas artists like Onra and Tha Trickaz. It’s about adding to the variety while being unique, rather than trying to produce music that sounds like a copy of a copy,” added JC, who said Hanoi Sessions plans to create a ‘virtual EP’ with a set of tracks that ‘take in more angles on life in the capital’.
“We’ve got a few other tracks we’re working on, still heavily inspired by the sounds of Vietnam, and there’s also some club-orientated material that’s percolating through,” he said.
Hanoi Sessions produced track, which is currently available for viewing on YouTube and was filmed and edited by UE.