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September 9-14, 2010 VIETNAM Ho Chi Minh City
  The Hunt
  Hanging out with laughing monks was one diversion from the hunt for traditional Vietnamese instruments & musicians; Steve as coconut vendor is another.
  Would You Like Some POP With Your Saigon?
  On The Beat and Path meets up with Vietnam Idol finalist Thao Trang, who talks about dreams, music and inspirations ... and invites the crew to a private rehearsal.
The Show
  Justin Murta & VietMax lead the Peace United House tour and its 4 elements of hip hop: MC (313 Crew), DJ (DJ Wang & BNuts), Graffiti (CrazOne), and BBOYS (Big South Crew).
Poolside Muppet Session  
Despite Gary's temporary paralysis, the boys recorded their traditional post-episode podcast in a pool centered in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.  
Recorded in Ho Chi Minh City, September 14, 2010

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Vietnam: Goin' Contemporary  
viet blog
As we prepared for the Saigon shoot for On the Beat and Path, we knew that we were in for a different adventure than the previous three episodes. Both Laos and Goa afforded us the opportunity to explore the rural areas of a country and dig deep for cultural music and cultural traditions. While we still had the same vision for Saigon, we were also aiming to get involved in more urban musical settings, as Saigon is a booming Asian city with a lot to offer in terms of culture and music.

Our research was gifted with an incredible head start as Nick Ross, editor of the The Word magazine in Saigon, forwarded us information about artists in such diverse musical fields as hip hop, pop, DJ culture and even traditional ensembles. His contacts were radically valuable and essentially he paved the way for one of our busiest location shoots ever.
Landing in Saigon, we immediately traveled to the local Hard Rock for a show by DJ duo Tha Trickaz. Understandably, the Hard Rock is not the sort of place that On The Beat and Path ventures too often but the opportunity to see a Vietnamese/Parisian duo throw down in Ho Chi Minh was too rich a show to miss. Jase Nguyen, local DJ and promoter with Saigon Beats, helped to arrange the show and prepared all access for filming for us.

While we didn't get a chance to interview the crew due to our late arrival and the unnecessary volume of CREED hits pumping out by the Hard Rock staff we were able to meet Kamel. Kamel was a DJ and I guess something else but he spent more time snarking on us with a "I don't know you so I don't trust you, so get out of my way" mentality. Eventually he was met with the same level of attention one would give a new Tom Cruise movie. We ignored him with polite smiles and gestures of appreciation.

The music was incredible throughout the night, though, as old school hip hop ruled the sound early and the ready-to-dance crowd swelled with anticipation as Tha Trickaz came to the stage. Outfitted in white and red cat masks, the duo worked seamlessly together a la Chemical Brothers providing beats to the wanting masses. We put together a bonus scene of our time there. Regrettably, Kamel was too ugly for the camera but he does make a small cameo at some point.

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The next morning it was immediately off to work. It was a day of context shooting and sightseeing as Gary and I took to the streets in some old- fashioned cyclos. Back in the day, cyclos were the transportation option of choice. Of course, now motorcycles rule the streets of Saigon. However, a leisurely 3km/h pace through the 'tourist town' section of Saigon is just what this production crew needed as we visited the river, pagodas, markets and created the Cyclo Diaries Bonus Scene.
Bonus Scenes
  Big South Crew
  Here's the full unedited, uncut version of Peace United House's Big South Crew.
  Cyclo Diaries
  Steve and Gary, armed with a rusty guitar and cameras, cruise the streets of Saigon in what is quite possibly the slowest moving vehicle since the advent of Parliament.
  Tha Trickaz
  Steve and Gary are gifted with backstage access to Vietnamese/Parisienne DJ duo, Tha Trickaz, and their thumpin' set in Saigon.
  The Walkaway
  Determined to buy a traditional Vietnamese instrument, and improve his ranking as the 9,587th worst bargainer on planet Earth, Steve drops "The Walkaway." If successful, he would surpass millions in the rankings, albeit mostly infants and some comatose victims.
  Karen Manion in Saigon
  Steve catches up with Canadian Jazz Singer, Karen Manion and her Vietnamese three- piece band as she performs at the Purple Jade Bar in Saigon.
  On the Beat and Path Plays for Cock
  Steve and Gary's most controversial clip yet. Or is it?
All of this was fine and dandy of course, it even passed for a holiday but we needed content. Our first stop was Justin Murta and Viet Max's Peace United House of Hip Hop. American Hip-Hop-Head Justin Murta arranged for a day filled with the four elements of Hip Hop: DJ, MC, Graffiti and BBoys. The Peace United house was a 4-story linkhouse that provided the opportunity for kids and members of the hip hop community to come and explore their love of all things Hip Hop. Mirrored dance studios, roof-top graffiti walls and DJ stations littered the house providing inspiration for all who visited. Everyone was excited to be involved and when I say everyone, I mean the more than 30 kids who showed up to display their skills.

That evening we had the opportunity to see one of Vietnam's most popular singers, Thao Trang. Thao was a finalist in the most recent Vietnam Idol competition and now just having released her second album is looking to expand beyond her Vietnam walls. Thao is small in stature but large in voice. We were invited to a showcase at the Acoustic Café, an intimate live music venue in Saigon that housed up to eight bands a night. Thao didn't perform any of her originals that evening but supplied the crowd with a collection of pop hits from American contemporary artists (of course, calling Britney Spears an artist is like calling Paris Hilton a movie star). Thao did impress and we did get to hear some of her originals at private rehearsal the next day. One thing did stand out while at the Acoustic Café and that was the Vietnamese love of American and classic rock. I continued to have visions of nightclubs in Iraq in 2042 with Iraqis dropping Nickleback covers. I almost vomited in my own mouth.

Once again we were generously gifted with some great accommodation in Saigon. While the 3-star Sanouva offered us 3 nights and a sponsorship that only ended up costing us $190 US, the Intercontinental Hotel put out the red carpet for us and pampered us to the tune of 5- star luxury over two nights. They even managed to arrange an interview with Canadian Jazz singer Karen Manion and her Vietnamese house band. Torontonian and former wedding singer, Manion was sharp tongued and possessed the ability to put an audience at ease. Of course, there is not much of an audience at a hotel bar on a Monday night. But that was the point: Karen performs the same for five people or five thousand people. She relished the opportunity to crack wise with other Canadians who understood her idioms and sense of humour and enjoyed the fact that her off-day was Tuesday as we all enjoyed one glass of wine, gin, mojito after another. With a full day of shooting still ahead, it was necessary to break free from the night and get some sleep.

We loved the contrast of the contemporary scene but we still had to look for some traditional examples of musical culture in Vietnam. Vietnam was known for an incredible list of interesting instruments such as the Dan Trang, the Dan Bao, the Qeej (which sounds like a dirty word), and the Dan Nguyet. Gary and I always maintain the mission that we want to find these instruments and maybe even some people who can actually play them (even play them poorly as far as we were considered). We tend to start our searches on the streets. In Saigon we wandered to the Ben Thanh market in hopes of unearthing a gem. While I opted to bargain for a lute tyba through the extraordinary skill of the walkaway, we secured our Vietnamese instrument that will act as more of a work of art than music maker. The hunt was still on.

On our last day, I continued to wander the streets and happened upon a store that sold jewelry, handicrafts, dust collectors and even offered currency exchange that could also easily pass for fiscal rape. Luckily it also sold an incredible selection of instruments. Now because this wasn't a music store per se I was convinced that there wouldn't be anyone here who actually knew how to play the instrument. More wrong I could not be. Anna, the shopkeeper and perennial 'smiler,' was more than happy to take out her personal electric Dan Bao (the store did not have these for sale) and strum the singular chord to a mellow melody. She also allowed me a turn as she instructed the proper technique. Suffice to say, I was terrible and was more interested in making loud sounds accompanied by the 'whammey-bar-like' device than muting the strings correctly. Regardless, my show was entertaining to all three who heard it live.

It as a refreshing change to scour the urban city centres in search of musical content for our show. Next we are in Bali, the Island of the Gods, and if all goes to plan, we will continue to find things we never planned on finding. Bali's episode premier is on October 23rd, 2010.

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Mission: On the Beat and Path provides a window into the planet's love and longing for music, using music as the primary language of global communication in order to develop a multi-media outlet for the sharing of music, travel and friendship.
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