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The Rec Room Anthology: A Tribute to Hanoi's Hibernating Underground Music Scene

Remember live music?

Daily life across Vietnam has been disrupted in many ways since this ongoing COVID-19 outbreak began in late April. While southern provinces, and particularly Saigon, are now bearing the brunt of this surge, normal has not returned to the capital.

And that means no live music, a hole that can now at least be partially filled by Nhạc Underground - Rec Room Anthology, a 46-minute homage to Hanoi's underground music scene directed and edited by Scott Homan and released by Banana Island Films.

Homan, who has moved back to the United States, arrived in Hanoi in 2012 and quickly dove into the city's music scene, especially through Hanoi Rock City.

"Being in Hanoi made sense for me at HRC," Homan said in an email. "I got to see one of the last shows of Gỗ Lim, we later made a tribute, narrative music video for one of their songs, directed by the French filmmaker Vincent Baumont of Almaz Media called 'Nín Thở' - Gỗ Lim."

Over the years, Homan honed his filming, sound and editing skills, and was eventually inspired to document Hanoi's music scene — particularly at the Rec Room — by a screening of B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979-1989 hosted by the German Film Institute and Doclab.

Screenshots from the video.

"It blew my mind how cool the music scene was in Berlin during that crazy time period, the variety of music being created, and the sheer amount of video coverage they had to cut from," Homan said. "I realized immediately that the Hanoi music scene was incredibly special and merited some kind of film to show it off."

He had already filmed around 70 songs from local performances, though many of these videos were never put together and released.

"Part of what inspired me was that the 48Hour Film Festival was coming up and although I love that project, I thought I should challenge myself to make a film that would be deeply meaningful to the whole community I was a part of and which had given me so much over my five years in Hanoi, rather than suffer to make a random short film over the upcoming weekend," Homan shared. "I had also made the decision to move back to the [US] in a couple of months so I started to see Hanoi through the lens of nostalgia and deep appreciation for how I had grown and what I knew I would miss."

An intense 10-day production period of storyboarding and editing ensued with assistant editors Sergey Bochenkov, Matias Hidalgo and Jacques Smit, and while a rough cut was finished in 2020, the polished version below wasn't completed until earlier this year.

Screenshots from the video.

"I believe that music is deeply unifying in part because it has been with us before language," Homan added. "It cuts straight to emotion centers of the mind and transcends cultural boundaries. My hope is that people will, first off, enjoy the work of these great artists even though they may all vary wildly from each other and thus from what you tend to listen to regularly. Most of the bands and artists in the film are actually friends with each other across cultural bridges and musical genre."

Check out the Rec Room Anthology, which acts as a time capsule from an era when crowds could gather indoors without a mask in sight, featuring interviews with key figures in Hanoi's underground music scene, as well performances from bands across pop, metal, hip-hop, punk, hardcore and psychedelic rock, below.

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