Maths master rocks out in Hà Nội

August 14, 2022 - 09:22
Võ Đức Anh teaches mathematics at The Olympia School, but by night he’ll be belting out songs at the iconic Hanoi Rock City, a venue he co-founded in 2010.
THE MUSIC MAN: Võ Đức Anh is the co-founder of Hanoi Rock City, the city's first independent live music venue.

by Quỳnh Anh & Hà Nguyễn

Võ Đức Anh is arguably the cleverest rock musician in Việt Nam.

By day you’ll find him teaching mathematics at The Olympia School, and by night he’ll be belting out songs at the iconic Hanoi Rock City, a venue he co-founded in 2010.

Anh, who goes by the nickname DA, has a master’s in mathematics and studied at Nottingham University in the UK for several years.

But it’s not just numbers that rock his world. Give him a guitar, and he is an adept performer.

Passionate about music and maths, DA incorporates both in the classroom.

“When giving students exercises, teachers limit it to about 10 minutes,” said the 38-year-old. “But in my class, I say, ‘Let’s do it in about two songs, and the exercise ends when the second song finishes.”

Some might think a challenging day teaching is enough to wear you out, but when DA finishes classes, you’ll find him on stage at the West Lake music venue.

“The key is passion! To make a living, I started a full-time teacher, which I also enjoy. Even if I’m physically exhausted when arriving at Hanoi Rock City late at night, I’m still energetic and enjoy my time here. Being active and observing the live music scene’s expansion motivates and keeps me going,” he said.

TUNE UP: DA in a performance at the much-famed Hanoi Rock City. Photos courtesy of Võ Đức Anh

After ending his studies in the UK, DA returned to Việt Nam and immediately spotted a gap in the market. At the time, he felt the capital city lacked a recognised music venue where young Vietnamese could meet and jam.

“The idea behind Hanoi Rock City (HRC) was to provide Vietnamese youngsters with a venue for music like we had in the UK. A space where they can write their music and try it out," he said.

“The best thing about HRC is that it is always growing as a family between artists and the audience.”

Like all the other bars and clubs in Việt Nam, they were forced to close their doors when the pandemic hit. But thanks to a loyal crowd of regulars, HRC is booming again.

Located in Tây Hồ District, many of the audience are expats, which was particularly evident when the venue first opened. But over time, more and more local music lovers are coming through the doors.

DA believes this mix of nationalities has benefited the club in many ways.

“When an expat performs at HRC, they connect. Each expat has brought a lot of cultural features from their country to Việt Nam. Many bands are playing many different types of music from all over the world. It is also good to introduce new genres of music to young Vietnamese people,” he said.

ICONIC VENUE: Hanoi Rock City gives young Vietnamese people a platform to compose and perform music. Photo courtesy of Hanoi Rock City

DA insists you don’t need to be a Lennon or McCartney to perform – he wants anyone to get on stage and give it ago.

“There is no judgment at Hanoi Rock City, and it’s a great place to meet other musicians and like-minded people,' he said.

“Whether you are a vocalist, bassist, pianist, or even trumpeter, simply volunteer and get ready to jam with a group of perfect strangers. A band can be a mix of Vietnamese and expats. It can combine many different people from all over the world and create a cultural exchange.”

In the past, HRC has collaborated with several organisations that use the venue for fundraising events or to showcase culture.

They have worked with the Swedish and Danish embassies and with cultural centres such as L’Espace.

Looking back on one fundraiser makes DA a little nervous, though thankfully, everything turned out well in the end.

In 2011, not long after an earthquake hit Japan, killing almost 20,000 people, DA arranged a fundraiser donating money to the Japan Foundation.

“I still remember that when the event started, it was about 15-20 minutes in, and no one had come,” he said.

“We were very worried. But about 30 minutes later, there were about 500 people in the yard of HRC. It is all because of foreigners’ habit of going out late. The show that day was very significant for us.”

Now the mathematician needs to crunch some more numbers and work out the best possible formula for many more great nights of rock in Hà Nội. VNS