Due to popular response, here’s a follow-up to my initial blog on Vietnamese New Wave. For those of you who may not have read it, Vietnamese New Wave (less often called Asian New Wave) is not Vietnamese music. Think Northern Soul, a British genre of music that didn’t come from British artists, but were beloved by 70s speed freaks for their common sound. At least, they didn’t make it, but they took it, played it at dances, made bootleg mixes of it on tape and CD. The songs in the genre share easy-to-dance-to/syncopation-avoiding beats (setting it apart from Freestyle), easy-to-learn and obviously ESL lyrics, and are completely devoid of pretense or irony. My love and exposure to this amazing music is owed entirely to an amazing person, the flawless tastemaker, Ngoc Nguyen.
Vietnamese New Wave artists come from a variety of scenes including Italo-Disco, (English, French and Swedish) Synthpop and (German and Spanish) and Eurodisco. Beginning in the some time around the mid-to-late ’80s, these bubbly, infectious tunes found an unexpected audience in the Vietnamese diaspora who disseminated these gems through the aforementioned mixtapes, parties and bootleg mix CDs which you can still find in Little Saigons around the globe.
We carry many of these artists at Amoeba. Most are found in the Freestyle section. However, a lot are found in, erm… Rock. So ask at info if you can’t find something.
La Francitronique – French synthpop
Where the French are widely known for their chanson and yé-yé, as well as their considerable contributions to Romanticism, house and rap (among other musical forms), their central importance in the development of electronic pop music is bizarrely less well known than, say, the Germans’ or Italians’ — even though Jean Michel Jarre and The Rockets were making electronic pop music back when Kraftwerk were still bearded, flute-playing hippie longhairs. Nonetheless, most French synthpop was sung in French, thereby considerably limiting its audience. But at least two acts are firmly within the Vietnamese New Wave canon.
Début de Soirée
Kashmir (no video)
Freizeithknast – German Eurodisco
Like most Eurodisco, the German variety is often lumped in with Italo, despite its Teutonic origins. Although musically it’s quite similar, there is an overall greater emphasis on pop song structures resulting in a slightly less club-oriented, keytar-dominated sound that takes it further away from its disco roots. Additionally, whether produced by Dieter Bohlen (Lian Ross, Modern Talking, Blue System, C.C. Catch, &c) or not, many German Eurodisco songs bear his influence, or that of others in his style. Whereas the Anglosphere proved fairly unreceptive to German Eurodisco, the artists found massive fame in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe; the Middle East, South Africa, and of course East and Southeast Asia.
Bad Boys Blue
Italio Stalio – Italo-Disco
Initially, what came to be known (only in retrospect, mind you) as Italo disco grew out of a synthesis of Space Disco‘s sci-fi preoccupation and (usually) Hi-NRG‘s staccato rhythms. Although “disco” became a dirty word in the Anglosphere, much of the rest of the world wasn’t ready to give up the ghost in the arcade machine. Whereas rock and rap grew unhealthily preoccupied with authenticity and machismo, Italo remained blithely indifferent and the videos often featured heavily-made up or scantily clad figures chosen more for their figures than singing talents. Although Italo is often used to describe all music in the ‘80s Eurodisco scene, here it’s only used for genuine Italian artists…although I hesitate to use the words “genuine” and “artist.”
El sonido Sabadell – Spanish Eurodisco
David Lyme (no video)
Of course, it was only a matter of time before Vietnamese performers (such as Anh Thuu, Lynda Trang Dai, Nguyen Thanh, Tommy Ngo, Trizzie Phuong Trinh, &c) and Cantonese singer Cally Kwong started covering the New Wave songs, although amongst fans, nearly everyone understandably seems to prefer the originals.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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