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What Needs To Be Done | Saigon’s Live Music Scene | DJ Mark Jolly

October 24, 2009


British DJ Mark Jolly has been entertaining the Saigon crowd for many years. Regular slots down at Lush, Vasco’s and Cage, have put him firmly on the map as one of the cities top vinyl spinners. Ahead of his forthcoming show, Déjà vu: UK in da House 2, Mark takes takes the time to talk about the Vietnam scene.

Q: Mark, thanks for talking to us. You’ve been playing for over eight years here, have you seen the music scene improve?

A: Has the scene got better? I have no idea, has it got better from several years ago? Sure. There’s a lot more people around and lot more variety.

Q: What do you make of the live music you’ve seen here? Does it compare to back home?

A: I went to a lot of gigs back when I lived in London. But I have no desire to see bands here. Granted there are some decent musicians around but they are very different from genuine artists putting their music out there. When the Handsome Furs came over, you could just see how it is, the way they presented themselves was so different from anything here, they just got up and did their stuff and you could tell that it was their own and they owned it. There’s no one like that.

Q: What obstacles does the Vietnam live music scene face?

A: Those involved in bringing acts in now, they need to keep it rolling and get this placed established as somewhere on the Asian tours of big bands. All the bureaucracy gets in the way, it scares a lot of promoters, from the management side they think: “I’d love to bring these people over but am I going to get a licence? And if I do, is it going to get shut down half way through?” It scares promoters into making that effort.

Q: Are locals enough to pull international acts here?

A: There are enough of them but they are a tiny proportion of the populous. Where a tiny indie band in London might connect with 10 percent of the population in the UK, here that band would only attract 0.1 percent. Out of 80-90m people, yes there are enough to fill venues, but it’s getting through to them. It’s about getting the kids involved, not the old people. There are more and more kids who like Slipknot and bands like that and are rebelling against the old stuff. The problem is these are the kids getting laughed at in school because they’re different.

Q: How do we sell live music here? What needs to be done in terms of ticketing?

A: The way its done here is through sponsorship, hooking acts up with the liquor companies. People aren’t used to the idea of buying tickets for things, and more and more clubs are charging on the door and people are getting used to it. It’s about getting the liquor companies to realize they can market themselves by associating themselves with emerging music trends, not just by projecting the image of a beer.

Q: Finally, what can be done to improve the scene?

A: To get the scene going we should do the following. On the small scale it would take someone putting together a venue that’s suitable and waiting for the scene to develop. To start an underground club or live music venue it would take an owner with a lot of money prepared to take the risk, someone with the money who can afford to take the risk and also pay the right people to get the licenses.

There are a lot of bar owners who claim to love live music but no one is doing anything that is specifically tailored for it, places like Acoustic and Yoko, are, but really its just local or expat people getting up with a guitar. What we’re talking about here is getting international acts in and getting actual talent who are already here creating and writing good quality music that can be played live.

To find out more about Mark, and to hear about upcoming gigs, check out his Facebook page here.

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