Interview with DJ Jase from Saigon

When it comes to Dubstep, HipHop or other kind of urban music styles, DJ Jase from Saigon is most definitely the man! To support the development of bass heavy music in Vietnam, he founded a group called „The Beats Saigon“. They organize parties with local artists and created also an international network to bring over some of the freshest acts to perform in Vietnam. Before DJ Jase played his set at the new venue Hanoi Rock City in Vietnam a couples of weeks ago, he took the time and answered some questions for us.

Hey Jase! Please introduce yourself and your music…
I’m DJ Jase from Saigon. I started deejaying as well as promoting music back in 2007. My crew is called The Beats Saigon. We do a lot of bass heavy music such as Dubstep, Drum’n’Bass, HipHop, Abstract Beats up to Reggae music. Dubstep is the latest in the evolvement of bass music right now. But my style is more eclectic, because in my set I play all kind of the already named genres mixed up.

Where do young Vietnamese artists like you get their influences from?
My musical roots are more Reggae, because it’s a lot of bass heavy influence. Lately, I listen to a lot of UK Dubstep artists like Skream or Low End Theory from Los Angeles, because their beats are more abstract and more crazy.

The Beats Saigon was founded in 2007. What’s the idea behind it?
When I went out in Vietnam, I didn’t see any really good music. Most DJ’s play the same kind of style in all the clubs. So I got quite sick and as a DJ myself I got quite frustrated. That’s why I started doing more promotion and began to organize my own parties – it just started from there.

I see. And what is your favourite booking so far, like the one you’re most proud of?
I’m most proud of having brought DJ Premier to Vietnam, because he is the god of HipHop. To have him play in my city in Saigon was such an honour. It was in 2010 and he just killed us. Seeing people jumping up and down to the real HipHop was such a thrill.

Who else is on your wish list?
I want to bring DJ Shadow to Vietnam, because he’s another really great producer. I want to bring every good and original act over here. It’s just too many: LTJ Bukem, the Godfather of Drum’n’Bass; Mos Def, because he’s the freak of Freestyle HipHop. I want them all to play in Saigon…

What kind of subcultures do you have in Vietnam and is there something like a scene for HipHop?
From what I’ve seen, there are lots of Indie Rockers that started to come up. And I even have seen some Goths. The Skaters are doing quite good. They do a lot of crazy tricks. HipHop has been around for a along time but especially the B-Boys are quite good.

When did HipHop start to spread in Vietnam?
The HipHop thing is going on in Saigon since 2000, I think. But the real HipHop thing is only a little. Most of them just follow because it’s trendy and kinda looks cool when you dance. I don’t know how many people actually understand the real roots of music. Like the Funk music behind it and where it all started from: Blues, Jazz and all that stuff. Most kids these days just get exposed to the MTV style of HipHop.

What do you think is the reason for the strong spread of B-Boying, while other elements of HipHop – like Rap and Graffiti – are still underdeveloped?
It’s easy: everyone can dance but not everyone can draw. It’s harder to press your mind into it. Most people can walk – if you can walk, you can dance. It’s a natural thing, that’s why I guess more people are into breaking.

Are there any famous Rappers that rhyme in Vietnamese?
There are quite a lot of rappers that are underground like this guy Wowy. I like the guy because of his lyrics. He raps about what he has experienced and his attitude when he performs is that he doesn’t give a crap of what people think. There are also more commercial rappers, like Suboi and Rapsoul. And there are many more…

Are there any particular differences, if you compare the development of HipHop in the North with the South of Vietnam? Especially, if you compare your experiences as a live performer in both parts of the country…                                                                                                                                 
In the North, the Breakdance scene is way more developed. I like Hanoi better in that case. Actually, I don’t know much about the scene in Hanoi. I don’t live there, so I can’t say anything about the scene over here. I haven’t seen any good rappers so I can’t pass a judgement. In the South it sounds more clubby, more commercialized. But still it’s the same kind of people in the audience when it comes to HipHop.

What’s your favourite location in Vietnam right now and where in the world would you like to perform one day?
I like Hanoi Rock City at the moment. That’s one of the freshest things I have seen for a while. The venue is very spacious and the owner is quite open minded. It’s really rare to see a music lover open up a place rather then just a business person that doesn’t give shit. (Jase asks if he can say “shit” and starts laughing)

Just say whatever you want, Jase
Ah okay, Shhiiit (laughing). You know, business people always worry about getting more customers. They don’t care about the music. Someday, I want to play in a place in London called the “Notting Hill Festival”, which is one of the biggest Reggae-Festivals in the world. That’s definitely one of my top places.

Which five records won’t you leave at home when you go to a club and perform?
Oh, that’s more than five (laughing) B. Bravo Midnite – One of my favourite electro-funk records; Hudson Mohawke Fuse – A talented producer from Scotland; Salvo – an American producer Downtempo/Dubstep beat. This is hard… I like, I want to bring out, damn. Skream – Really good Dubstep producer; Doshy – from Berlin

Which record would you play to clean out the floor?
I have quite a lot of embarrassment dish. Some really bad Reggae stuff, but I’m not gonna name it now (dirty laugh)

What is your wish for the future development of urban music in Vietnam?
To have a larger variety and I’ve been trying to do that stuff for years. And it’s starting to take off now. I started pushing the sound. When I play, I usually let the people not request which makes them pissed off when I ignore them and just let them go. But I want to push the scene and you can’t do that when you only play for the crowd. I want the Vietnamese scene to be more vibrant, more local DJ’s to play Dubstep, Drum’n’Bass and real good HipHop stuff.

Come back to Vietnam in two years and you might be seeing that the scene has amazingly developed. In Saigon, we have local producers making underground sound. I’m really proud of that. They’re making Dubstep. In two years you’ll see we gonna put out Vietnamese records, so watch out!

Thanks for your time, Jase!

Interview by Andreas Margara, special thanks to Van Nguyen!

Check out Jase’s Live-Mix: HERE

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