Ethereal voice from Hanoi and host of Xóm Nhạc
Photo by Ed Weinberg
18 August 2019
Text by Thanart Rasanon
Edited by Dhyan Ho
Singing with looping effects, Linh Hà’s ethereal, angelic voice floats in the air, warming the heart and calming the mind.
“Nhac Trut” means “pour the music”, Linh Hà got the inspiration from the power and magic of the trees and nature when she performed at Jai Thep Festival, in Chiangmai, Thailand. This September she will return to Berlin, the city she was born in, performing for the first time there at Blind Signal GTMN VTNM.
LinhHafornow is a solo project by Linh Hà, who although born in Berlin, Germany, was raised in Hanoi, Vietnam. Only beginning as an improvisational artist one and a half years ago. She hosts “Xóm Nhạc” the series of music events and concerts that attempts to introduce independent local, expat and international artists in Hanoi to a curious audience. She also has a band project called “Tiny Giant” that she collaborates with “Tomes” an Australian electronic producer and musician who is also based in Hanoi.
Photo by Lucas Koenig
You recently participated in several FAMLAB, cultural exchange, artist residencies. How was that experience?
I knew about this project through friends and the Internet and was immediately impressed by their mission and vision. I was very lucky and grateful to have joined all three FAMLAB residencies (which I applied through an open call), each one gave me different impressions and lessons.
The last FAMLAB was an intense working experience of 20 days of collaboration among 43 master musicians and artists from different parts of Vietnam and the United Kingdom. It’s definitely a challenge for everyone to work together with a very strict schedule of 8 hours every day for the whole time. But we did manage to ‘build’ a concert together in the end with a lot of praise from the audience. I think each of us can be proud to look back because despite the barrier of language/culture/musical backgrounds we achieved something great by friendships and sharing connections.
Music is truly universal.
Documentary film : https://www.facebook.com/BritishCouncilVietnam/videos/2377712378964549
Which music or artists in ambient music inspired you before you started the LinhHafornow project?
The way I started this project was purely out of the existing emotions when I performed live. I started out as only performing live and improvisation. So it took me about 1.5 years of constant performing and jamming to figure out my sounds. The melodies and the vocals came naturally during this whole process. Of course, to come to this point there should be some influence but to name artists who inspired me to pursue ‘LinhHafornow’ is quite tricky because for a while I listened to a lot of ambient music, and also techno, traditional music from around the world. As in names: Boards of Canada, Múm, Sea Oleena, Sigur Rós.
Why did you choose “LinhHafornow” as your moniker?
It came to me in a conversation with a friend whose venue I was going to perform at. He asked me about my stage name. And I thought it would be funny to have ‘LinhHafornow’, because it stays true like this pretty much forever, haha.
It also has a deeper message to stay and be aware of the present.
Which music instruments and equipment did you use to perform and record during this time?
At first, I was using Jam Man pedals. A year ago, I purchased a loop station - BOSS RC505.
Photo by Dhyan Ho
You will be releasing the album for the band project “Tiny Giant” soon, congratulations! How about “LinhHafornow” do you have a plan to release a solo album? I heard only one song on your Soundcloud, and it was interesting also your performance videos.
Thank you :)
In the last year, I spent most of my energy on Tiny Giant. I still had occasional time-off where I could join music residencies. But from now until after the EP Launch of Tiny Giant, I still have a trip to Europe (Germany, Belgium) and then probably some other residencies and festivals. My solo project has always been mainly happening in the live realm, but hopefully next year I’m going to be able to work on new sounds with a new approach. I might make ambient techno ;).
Tiny Giant, Photo by Ryan Mccabe
How do you and Tomes first know each other and start “Tiny Giant” together?
We knew each other from the Hanoi music scene and had an idea of collaborating about 2 years ago. It turned out we have a very deep connection in making music and more. ‘Tiny Giant’ debuted at DeN (rip) on April 2018.
When you started the Hanoi music event series, Xóm Nhạc? How was the first event, and also the latest one?
I started hosting Xóm Nhac more than a year ago, it’s a twice a week event showcasing musicians from the local scene with occasional appearances of international acts like Filastine & Nova, Joee & I, Teenage Granny.
I still remember how nervous I felt the first time of Xóm, my first guest was Thang (Ngot), he was actually the first host. During my early live performances, I normally didn’t use many words to communicate with the audience but as the host, I should create a welcoming atmosphere for everyone, so gradually I’ve built up the confidence of communicating not only by music but also languages. I was still nervous in the last Xóm but definitely was more comfortable. After the show, some people came up to me saying they felt really relaxed and it was welcoming, that made me smile.
In recent time, I have given the chance to work more with master musicians from different regions in Vietnam. With the help of John from the Hanoi Social Club, I was able to invite two amazing traditional musicians to perform at Xom Nhac: Anh Tih - master musician, instrument builder - from Kon Tum (Central Highlands) and Anh Thach - master musician - from Tuyen Quang (North-West Vietnam). It was an amazing opportunity for me personally and for the audience to get to know them musically and personally. We all ended the performance with a collaboration between the master musicians, me and sometimes another artist - the experiences were somewhat like a journey - first, we get to know each other, then we're slowly understanding the other and we end the jam in a friendly note.
Who were the early people you were involved with or knew in the Hanoi independent music scene?
Brett Zweiman (Numbfoot/audiOhm), with whom I collaborated a lot in my early days of defining my sounds. We had a lot of live jam sessions for audiOhm where anyone can come to listen to the music and meditate, draw, sleep, dream or simply just drift into it.
John Sylvan (The Hanoi Social Club) was really supportive of creating a space for me to perform live at his cafe—this is where Xóm Nhac takes place.
And then throughout time I met a lot of musicians and had numerous collaborations, like LAKES (live electronic duo, UK), MNED (songwriter, Chile), David Payne (guitarist, Australia), Dustin Ngo (producer, ANNAM, Vietnam), Trang Chuoi (bassist/guitarist, Limebocx, Vietnam) and Tomes (electronic musician/producer, Australia)
Video by John Sylvan See less
You also recommend your artist friends like Ly Trang in other interview, that also makes interesting music for me. How do you know each other?
We knew each other through mutual friends. We went on a residency together to the Central Highland and Cham Village. You should listen to her music—it’s like tip topping in some kind of musical fairytale.
Did you quit as a German language teacher from university last year? Can you compare your life now with a full-time career in music and during the time that you were still teaching in a university?
I’m still a German teacher as a profession. I don’t think I can be a full-time musician now, I still need that balance of having a normal job and having space for my creative outcome.
But my life now has definitely changed a lot from a year ago. My university career pretty much took all of my time, I didn’t have time to do much else. Now I can take some short trips to join in various residencies. Definitely more freedom! I’m looking forward to going back next month, to be going to Berlin.
I saw that you will perform at Blind Signal GRMN VTNM, a site-specific experimental music project, on 21 September. How did you get involved in this? This is the first time you’ll perform in Berlin, the place you were born right? How do you feel?
I saw the application call for Blind Signal and applied, I got in.
Coming back to Berlin this time is something really special for me. I’ve been back a few times before but not in this role—to perform in Berlin is going to be very emotional. It’s like I’m coming home after a long time and telling my family “Hey, I’m back and this is who I am”.
What are your future plans?
Tiny Giant’s EP Launch—Europe month—scouting for more residencies and a few festivals. That’s short-term.
I’m also looking into new sounds for myself, a new approach to making music.
(Interviewed on 18 July 2019)
Flying Mouse EP by Tiny Giant is out now.
Favorite Music Playlists
Favorite Music Artists
Boards of Canada
Favorite Film Director
Wes Anderson, Director of Isle of Dogs (2018), The Grand Budapest (2014), Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Currently reading ‘Homo Deus’