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OXYMORON: An Exploration of Sound, Dance and Light

If it were possible to condense the creative output of Saigon’s urban dance and music scene into one show, OXYMORONmight be it. Creative directors Lai Tran and Chieu Tori – a DJ duo also known as Cheezy Gangztaz – discuss cross-disciplinary collaborations, self-reflection and what to expect at this Saturday's show.

They have graced Saigon’s streets and art spaces with visual spectacles, made heads bob in local clubs, helped boost the hip-hop and classical dance scenes in the city and taken part in cross-disciplinary art projects. This Saturday, eight artists – Crazy Monkey(Le Thanh Tung), Julien Noyer, Unicorn Dance (Ha Locand Hai Anh), Beastmode(Vincent and Kim) – are coming together for the first time under the creative direction of Cheezy Gangztaz(Lai Tran and Chieu Tori) to bring local audiences an interactive performing arts experience.

Video via YouTube user Cheezy Gangztaz.

For Tran and Tori, this new collaboration came about in typical Saigon style.

We knew all of [the performers] through different events in town,” she tells Saigoneer. “Here, everyone knows everyone.”

Inspired by their fellow artists and seeking to embark on a new project, the duo decided to float the idea of collaboration to their peers.

We found the connection because we admire these guys’ work and [the] effort they put in their own fields,” Tori continues. “More importantly, they dare to do something different and they are willing to try something crazy. So, to talk them into our project, we just said: 'Yo, let’s do something different and crazy.'”

The DJ duo has been spinning trip-hop, funk and soul tracks in various venues around town for the past three years, but to anyone who has met them or seen them perform, it is clear that they are kindred spirits whose bond goes beyond musical tastes.

I set my mind straight from the first day I arrived in Saigon: I have to keep connected with the arts scene here,” says Tran, who is French. “Saigon offers a lot of opportunities for artists to express themselves and I, along with my opposite twin, Chieu, don’t want to miss any. After three years spinning around the city, we always stay authentic to our personalities through the music we play. There is always a conversation we want to start by DJing, not just partying.”

The leap to a live multi-disciplinary show like OXYMORON was fueled by both the untapped creative possibilities and the open exchange of ideas which Saigon has recently witnessed.

Video via YouTube user Cheezy Gangztaz.

One day we realized that music [alone wasn’t] enough,” explains Tori. “Why don’t we try to capture the beauty of arts by combining all forms together? Imagine what we could see when we put ourselves there at the crossroads of arts where music, dance and lighting speak simultaneously. This kind of execution has been popular around the world [and] created by famous digital artists from art studios like Adrien M and Claire B, so we are definitely under a lot of pressure when coming up with OXYMORON.”

While Cheezy Gangztaz will provide a soundtrack for the show in the form of trip-hop music, the dancers will perform choreography created in conjunction with an interactive 3D mapping backdrop which changes along with the dancers' movements.

Crazy Monkey will introduce some new tricks within his expertise that allow the visual to be aligned with the dancers’ movement,” says Tori. “Julien Noyer will stun the audience with 3D visuals as well. We can’t really reveal the techniques because we are not experts ourselves anyways, but we think it’s gonna be dope.”

Video via Facebook user Cheezy Gangztaz.

OXYMORON revolves around the exploration of self-identity and how it develops. “This is a universal concept [on which] anyone can reflect regardless of age or origin or gender because building your identity is a neverending path,” says Tran.

The concept stems from a personal quest rather than a larger philosophy. Tran is Vietnamese-French, while Tori is Vietnamese. Though the pair are quite alike, their personalities can clash; still, the duo learned to accept one another's differences by viewing their counterpart as someone off of whom to bounce their own identities.

We will never know where we truly stand if we are caged in our own perspective,” he continues.

Cheezy Gangztaz's motivations are unified by a shared appreciation for music and performance artists. With more and more artists crossing disciplines and an increasing presence of multidisciplinary performances in both Vietnam and around the globe, the expectations are high. Adding further pressure still is the challenge of managing a large group of artists; both Tori and Tran have full-time jobs outside of Cheezy Gangztaz.

Managing people is never an easy task,” explains Tran, “but from the very beginning, we knew that when it comes down to an art project we have to, and we want our team to express themselves to the fullest. Of course, we find obstacles and difficulties in keeping track of the project’s timeline, especially [since] there are only two of us to manage everything. But when I step back, I can tell again and again that me and Tori always complete each other well, so we use our own skills to keep our artists on the same passion level as we aim for our project to be.”

Tori echoes her partner's sentiment on balancing the creativity of many artists with a strict timeline.

The good thing is we work with people who know what they are doing, and we have set up a clear structure of working for everyone so it’s been smooth so far,” adds Tori. “We support the idea of collaboration whenever there’s a chance. Limiting yourself in your own satisfactory world and comparing yours to others' will somehow limit your vision.”

OXYMORON is shaping up to be a fusion of visuals, sound and movement which certainly mirrors the whirl of polarizing cultures and artistic endeavors present here in Saigon.


OXYMORON will be at Red Box Studio.

Saturday, June 18

9pm – 2am

197B Thanh Thai, Ward 14, D10

08 62 995 019

Tickets VND450,000 at the door

[Photo courtesy of OXYMORON]

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