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[Video] Rapper Wowy Preserves a Piece of Saigon History in Music Video 'Do Tao Lam'

Late last month, Saigon rapper Wowy debuted his “Do Tao Lam” music video, the first clip from his most recent album, Lao Dai.

The video, which appeared on the rapper's Facebook page out of the blue, features Wowy himself along with a cast of Neverland-type characters – young men tearing apart stuffed animals, a gaggle of children carrying the regal rapper's black-and-white patterned robe, two boys who serve as his bodyguards (though they're shorter than him) – as well as a setting familiar to many Saigonese: 727 Tran Hung Dao.

The storied 1960s-era building was once home to American military personnel, and after 1975, over 2,500 Vietnamese inhabitants. Now, however, the six-tower, 13-story apartment complex bears an eerie, run-down aesthetic both inside and out. Only 10 families remain within the decrepit building, reports Zing, along with dozens of ghost stories and a fair amount of abandoned furniture. As a living space, 727 Tran Hung Dao is a nightmare.

But for the Lao Dai star – who's currently hard at work preparing his own crowdfunded live show – the apartment complex seemed a perfect place to film his latest video. Its crumbling interior and cluttered hallways add to the Lost Boys vibe which run throughout the clip, following Wowy from a room full of hoarded toys through the dank corridors of the once-great building and up to the roof, where he holds court from a plastic sofa chair overlooking the empty swimming pool, in full view of the Saigon skyline.

Along with “Do Tao Lam” director Thibaud Taillant, Wowy formed the video's concept in part around the building and its mysterious atmosphere.

“Thibaud was really interested in the 727 Tran Hung Dao apartments because of the history, which everyone in Saigon knows, and the atmosphere the building brings,” Wowy tells Saigoneer via email. “The apartment building has been blocked for a long time, and recently it was decided to destroy the building by [HCMC Party Chief] Dinh La Thang. I thought surely Thibaud and his friends wouldn't be sad to hear this news. But once he went for a walk near there and Thibaud took a photo of the apartment building and told me: 'Wowy, I just found a really interesting place near your house and I think we need to do something there.'”

Over two days, Wowy and Taillant convened in the deteriorating building which, largely abandoned and on the verge of collapse, now has a reputation for criminal activity and drug abuse. Along with their film crew, the duo tiptoed around the structure, collecting their shots as they worked their way up to the roof of the building. At one point, a room elsewhere in the building collapsed.

“Around noon we were filming when, suddenly, somewhere in the abandoned building, a room collapsed and water started overflowing everywhere,” says Wowy.

The tense atmosphere – and perhaps the fear of plummeting to your death – made for an unusual film set. According to the Lao Dai rapper, crew members tiptoed around the building, worried about making noise even in the afternoon.

By nighttime, however, the time had come to make their way up to the roof of the building. After greasing a palm or two to gain access to the top floor, Wowy and crew were greeted with a panoramic view of District 1 and the Saigon skyline.

“I wasn't surprised to feel the extravagance of the building during its better years,” Wowy says, explaining what it was like to stand on the roof. “In front of me, there was an abandoned swimming pool and the image of the city...It was really surprising, like you had come across an ancient Mayan civilization that was left to the apes.”

As city officials inch ever closer to relocating the remaining families in 727 Tran Hung Dao and demolishing the building, Wowy's “Do Tao Lam” video bears witness to what the grand building has become in its final years: a chilling, decrepit apartment block in precarious condition.

For the rapper, this video almost didn't happen. “Do Tao Lam” was filmed during Wowy's time with Lang Van, a US-based recording studio. However the star has worked as an independent artist for the past two years and never expected to see the work from the video shoot come to fruition. So when Lang Van dropped the star's video late last month, it was a pleasant surprise.

“We were very satisfied to see it out after two years. We thought it would never be released,” Wowy explains. “Now that it's public, I can enjoy the achievement. At least we did something [as a tribute to 727 Tran Hung Dao] in the 'Do Tao Lam' music video. Go watch it because you may never see the apartment again."

Video via YouTube user Wowy Nguyen.


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