Saigon Soul Revival brings the almost forgotten songs of Vietnam to the world. Their second album “Mối Lương Duyên” brings the pop era into the present.

With their retro sound, the quintet Saigon Soul Revival from Vietnam travelled back in sound to the south of the country in the late 60s and early 70s during the Vietnam War. In addition to the violent circumstances, there was also a special era of Vietnamese pop music at the time. The cafés, bars and clubs of the then capital of South Vietnam, Saigon (now officially known as Ho Chi Minh City) were buzzing with live music.

Vietnamese artists from an already dynamic music scene with some international influences also play soul, funk and rock from the USA. Due to the US army stationed in South Vietnam, styles are increasingly circulating there. A scene with new Vietnamese songs is growing at a challenging time.

Golden Music

In the past, music from the south was also called “yellow music” (Nhạc Vàng), in contrast to the “red music” (Nhạc Dỏ) of the communist north. Some people still refer to it as “golden music” today.

“Today we know that there were many recordings from this period. It was definitely a good period of Vietnamese music and culture in general. Unfortunately, most of the music ended with the end of the war in 1975,” says Indy Laville from the band.

The country was later reunified and many people from the defeated south, including musicians, had to flee. Their music was banned by the communist regime and recordings were destroyed. However, the band name Saigon Soul Revival alone makes it abundantly clear that this sound is to be revived.

Modernized style

Saigon is the centre of the band. It was founded here in 2016 after a jam session. In 2017, they also appeared on the nationally recognised TV music casting show “Ban Nhạc Việt”. Her debut album “Họa Âm Xưa” was released in 2019.

The “soul” in the name does not necessarily refer exclusively to soul music. The word is more of an umbrella term. Saigon Soul Revival are inspired by old recordings from the time. On their new album “Mối Lương Duyên” (Destiny), they reinterpret three Vietnamese classics from back then. They have also written eight new songs of their own in the same style and take it a step further.

“Sometimes we have to make a bit of a choice. We want to stay true to the music of the past and at the same time incorporate our own vision and style into the music,” says Indy Laville.

Western styles and psychedelic organ playing, for example, merge with traditional Vietnamese music and instruments such as Đàn Nguyệt or Đàn Bầu. Overall, the band varies its sound with influences such as funk, classic and surf rock as well as ska. The retro charm with a partly live character is omnipresent.

Singer Nguyễn Anh Minh sings impressively about love on the new release – about the pain that can be associated with it, but also about confidence, such as in the song “Bói Hoa” (Happy Flower), which is about the classic flower-tugging, which is supposed to provide information about whether the love is reciprocated.

Next Step

The revival is certainly underway. In the mid-2010s, a few compilations were released with music from that era, which was presented to an international audience and aroused the curiosity of many people. Frankfurt-based producer Jan Hagenkötter played a big part in this with his “Saigon Supersound” compilations. The band still works with him today. With their second album, “Saigon Soul Revival” make a further contribution to non-forgetting worth listening to.

And the fact that Saigon Soul Revival seems to succeed in this is perhaps also the reason why the song “Đ​á​m C​ư​ớ​i Nhà Em” was featured in the HBO Mini-Serie „The Symphatizer“ (directed by Par Chan-Wook / Robert Downey Junior producer and actor), which is based on the novel of the same name (Pulitzer Prize 2016) by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Enjoy songs from the album “Mối Lương Duyên” and our broadcast on Mixcloud in the “Album of the Week” section.

NMR (photo: press Saigon Soul Revival)