"Mai Khoi might just as easily be described as Vietnam’s Björk or Laurie Anderson. Her voice runs the gamut from whispered intrigue to full-bodied yearning. Her saxophonist channels John Coltrane at his most untethered, his most desperate. The music is designed to, and does, have a physical effect, hitting not one but several nerves. It aims to assault, unafraid to be difficult or jarring or ugly. If music alone could break chains, this would be the music to do it."
Mai Khoi Chem Gio represents an awakening of self-awareness and social critique in a society in which freedom of expression is far from guaranteed. “We give voice to the unspeakable”, says Mai Khoi, “unlike other musicians here, we don’t ask for permission to perform or submit our lyrics to the censors.” Sonically, the avant-garde group is equally bold, weaving eastern woodwinds around unabashed brass over dissonant guitar in experimental and, at times, highly improvised arrangements. Melodic and lyrical themes are diverse, reflecting the emotional variation - from innocent and ironic to ominous and introspective - of Mai Khoi’s compositions. She is joined by Nguyen Duc Minh on scale drums, flutes and mouth harps, many of which he has invented and carved out of bamboo himself, and Quyen Thien Dac on the baritone, bass clarinet and alto, soprano and tenor saxophones. In a soundscape where so many groups look and sound the same, Mai Khoi Chem Gio offer something new.
Quyen Thien Dac
Quyen Thien Dac has been described as Vietnam’s only jazz musician. Dac learned saxophone from his father, Quyen Van Minh, who set up the first jazz club in Hanoi after the war. He graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston and completed a Masters in Jazz at The University of Sweden. Dac forges an original and complex sound, bringing the timbre of traditional Vietnamese music to jazz using the baritone,
sopranoand alto saxophones.
Nguyen Duc Minh
Minh is a versatile multi-instrumentalist proficient in mouth harps, bamboo flutes, scaled bamboo drums, the double-the reed trumpet, the urn drum, the string drum, and many percussive instruments. Minh is known for his propensity to weave hypnotic riffs around evolving melodies, articulating a diverse range of complex emotions from ecstatic joys to abject dejection. Minh has previously toured the United States as part of a competitive US State Department awarded tour.