In a 30 square meter studio in Tong Duy Tan Street, about 30 people are waiting for the start of Sofar Sounds’ 4th gig. The quiet atmosphere cannot hide their excitement and curiosity, as they do not know who is going to perform tonight. That is one of Sofar Sounds’ special traditions, in order for the artists to earn equal respect, whether they are well known or not. Many of Sofar venues are people’s homes so, to ensure the privacy of the hosts, their locations are kept secret to everyone but the guests, and are only revealed one day before the show. Today’s venue is VUI studio, an open cafe dedicated to showcasing contemporary aesthetics and craftsmanship. Van Diem, manager of the studio, said: “VUI Studio aims to support music, art and creative communities to popularize their activities. SoFar Sounds is suitable for our purpose so it’s a very good collaboration.”
| Photo: Sofarsounds
The show begins at 8.45 pm with 2 artists, Bui Minh Quan and Kaang, good friends who have performed together in the past. Neither of them have received professional vocal training, as Quan was educated to be a teacher, and Kaang is a charming and skillful dancer. However, their passion for music and singing led them to singing competitions, big stages, recording studios, and then a gig at Sofar Sounds. No pressure, no distance between singers and the audience, Quan and Kaang freely talk with music lovers and sing original songs, which they have never performed before. With songs like “Something”, “Silence”, and “New day”, Quan and Kaang lead the audience through stories of life via young people’s perspective. Quan said:“Previously I didn’t think I would show my songs to many people like this. But now I think sharing is important. So I have something to share and I just find the time and moment to share it, and Sofar is it. I’ve watched a lot of Sofar clips all over the world, and when it came to Vietnam, I was so excited. People came here without knowing I would be there, and they saw me without knowing I would sing my original songs. I would never know that it would be so exciting to perform my songs. I did feel the moment and I felt free to express myself.”
Kaang seems to get close to the audience quickly, and even has the audience sing in the background for her in one of her favorite original tunes: “Alone”. “This is a very new program in Vietnam and a new experience to me and Quan as well, as we are among the first artists invited to perform. It feels like inviting friends to our home and singing to them, very close and cozy and the emotions are real. The artists and audience are easy to communicate as well”, she said.
| Quan and Kaang (Photo: Sofarsounds)
For the next 1 hour and a half, there is only music and clapping going on in the studio, as to Sofar, music always comes first. My Linh, team leader of Sofar Hanoi said: “What makes Sofar special is that everyone is related. We don’t allow mobile phones and talking at our show so that artists and the audience are connected with music. With this connection, people will have the best experience.”
Every episode of Sofar attracts many foreigners, who have been to Sofar gigs in their countries, or have heard about the network. Colette Abear from Australia hasn’t had a chance to go to a Sofar gig in her country, and is excited about her experience in Hanoi: “That was lovely, really nice. I love the cozy atmosphere, great music, really enjoyed it. I feel calm and peaceful. I don’t know what the songs were meaning but because of the way the music was written, I really liked it. I think music is one of those things that transcend language. So for me, I really enjoyed the music, obviously for the music rather than with the language.”
Also coming for the first time, Thanh Tung from Hanoi finds the gig quite different from other live music sessions that he has been to: “I often listen to music on souncloud and I see some people sharing information about Sofar, so I decided to come check it out. I really like it and feel like it is worth my time. The atmosphere is very peaceful and makes it easier for me to go with the flow of music.”
In some cities in the UK and US, shows are ticketed and Sofar staffs are paid. In Hanoi, the money collected is hardly sufficient to cover the costs. There’s a tradition called “Pass a hat” after each show, so that the audience can donate some money upon their will, for the team to continue organizing next gigs. Hosts, artists, and audience can apply on www.sofarsounds.com for an “all-about-music” experience.