Fans happy as rock music gets rocking again

By Long Nguyen   May 12, 2021 | 05:15 am PT
Several rock bands and singers have recently released new albums and performed live shows, signaling a comeback for Vietnamese rock music.

In April, thousands of fans gathered to watch the "Buc Tuong Tro Ve" (The Wall Comes Back) live show of renowned Vietnamese rock band Buc Tuong (The Wall).

The live show, marking the 26th anniversary of the band with the participation of some other rock singers, satisfied many rock fans who’d been yearning for the revival of the genre that seemed to have given way to pop, hip hop and rap for several years now.

Recent live shows and releases of new albums have sparked hopes that rock music, one of the most popular genres among young Vietnamese as late as the first years of the new millennium, will regain its popularity and standing.

Once the most famous rock bands in the country, Buc Tuong had not been active since the death of its leader Tran Lap in 2016. But last year, after introducing their new vocalist, Pham Anh Khoa, the band has enjoyed its resurgence.

Pham Anh Khoa, vocalist of Buc Tuong, performs during their show in Hanoi, April 12, 2021. Photo courtesy of Buc Tuong.

Pham Anh Khoa, vocalist of Buc Tuong, as the band performs in Hanoi, April 12, 2021. Photo courtesy of Buc Tuong.

Their sixth album, "Con Duong Khong Ten" (Nameless Path), and their recent live show in Hanoi have won praise from fans across the country.

Recently, Hac San, a band performing progressive metal rock, released their second album, "Hon - Trang - Mau" (Soul - Moon - Blood), and won favorable attention from local fans.

Rock music videos have also been part of the revival.

Rock band Ngu Cung and musician Nguyen Duc Cuong introduced their MV "Yeu" (Love) in April. In three weeks, it raked in more than a million views on YouTube, as also a sea of compliments.

"With this song and MV, Ngu Cung, together with Buc Tuong, are bringing rock back," a netizen commented.

Ngu Cung did not agree that the MV is a comeback event for them, saying they have been busy since the band’s establishment in 2007.

"If it were not for the Covid-19 pandemic, we never disappeared. We were still performing in a lot of programs and shows, and have many future plans for our fans," band leader Hoang Hiep told local media.

A pop singer like Tung Duong has also stepped into the rock genre with his album and live show "Human," focused on progressive and industrial rock.

"A progressive rock album seems heavy, but actually, it is very easy for people to listen to," said musician Huy Tuan, commenting on Duong’s album.

Many young artists have formed rock bands like 7UPPERCUTS, MONOCYCLE, iTeu and The A Plan, building up their own fan base amid the rising popularity of other music genres.

Inevitable ups and downs

In the 2000s, rock music was so popular that many bands like Buc Tuong, MTV, Microwave and Thuy Trieu Do, performed many shows in stadiums and universities across the country, attracting thousands of fans.

But in the last few years, the rising popularity of R&B, pop, and rap has seen many rock bands disappear from the scene. "Rockstorm," one of the most popular rock shows in Vietnam, was stopped and replaced by EDM (electronic dance music) shows.

In the first years of the new millennium, Vietnamese music lovers were hooked on a lot of rock bands like Buc Tuong, Microwave, Thuy Trieu Do and Atmosphere.

"All types of music have ups and downs, in Vietnam or around the globe. The way audiences enjoy a genre depends on the tastes and preferences of their generation," said musician Tuan Hung, explaining the brief eclipse of Vietnamese rock music.

Even if the genre is said to be on the brink of a revival, there are still many things that artists need to do to bring rock back to its prime era standing, observers say.

They say that rock in the new era must be different, showing the artists’ creativity and professionalism.

Many artists have come up with new songs and combined them with other genres of music to attract a new generation of listeners.

In their recent album, Buc Tuong released ten new songs and performed with rapper Krazie Noyze, tapping into a genre that is dominating music charts in the world, including Vietnam.

Tung Duong, asserting that he was not afraid of giving rock music a new face, has introduced elements of rap and classical music into his repertoire.

Meanwhile, Ngu Cung has chosen to give old Vietnamese songs their rock versions as a way to approach more local audiences.

Apart from being creative, rock artists should also be more professional in introducing their songs to local fans, said musician Nguyen Quoc Trung.

In fact, many Vietnamese rock artists have released concept albums, which are more than just albums with general themes. They have specific and purposefully made connections across the span of the songs in the entire album. They say that this type of album normally takes a very long time to compose, record and finish.

Meanwhile, pop, rap, or hip hop singers can just release their new singles on several streaming services throughout the year, so their fans have new music to listen to more regularly.

"If you want Vietnamese rock to carve its own place in the music industry, the first thing that artists should do is to change their activities and views, to be more professional," Trung reiterated.

When Buc Tuong performed in Hanoi last month, they were worried about the ups and downs of Vietnamese rock and the band over the last few years.

But their nervousness was allayed on seeing thousands of hands waving and people singing along. Band leader Tran Tuan Hung said he believed that rock music is still in the hearts of many generations.

He said it is the music of love, optimism, and trust in life.

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