Arts and Culture
During the early days of radio in French Indochina, a minority of indigenous contributors protested that the political potential of the technology was not being realised. By the middle of the century, the power dynamics shifted. Media affiliates supporting various independence movements commandeered the latest technologies, including radio, to propagate their political messages. Radio professionals used particular voices, sounds and noises to creatively shape affiliations with fellow citizens, the soon-to-be-formed state and the Communist Party. Their broadcasts were dominated by political propaganda and anti-imperialist rhetoric. Seemingly apolitical musical styles were also featured on air. The music was strategically sourced from friendly socialist and communist states, and directly contrasted with the European styles being played on competing French-funded radio stations that I have written about elsewhere (Ó Briain 2018). In this paper, I draw on oral histories, archival records, radio guides and old audio recordings to analyse the content and messages that were broadcast on the Viet Minh-supported stations in the 1950s. Using musical practice as lens, the research investigates how performing artists responded to and influenced the political landscape in the years leading up to and shortly after independence in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. These songs were imbued with distinctly patriotic lyrics and other musical features that continue to influence creative practices in the Vietnamese music industry today. Although written and performed by only a handful of musicians in Hanoi at the time, these influential broadcasts shaped how listeners learned to conceptualise their new national identity through sound.