Hanoi Awakening: Toby Dobson documents the underground clubland of Vietnam's capital
"One of the biggest difficulties I had when making the film was that the scene in Hanoi is so much bigger than I was able to capture."
The nocturnal culture of Hanoi, is often overshadowed by its political presence, but in an in depth documentary, independent filmmaker and DJ Toby Dobson takes a deep dive into the prominence of the capital city’s underground realm.
The atmosphere of Hanoi’s non-commercial club scene is still only about five years young — whilst the COVID-19 pandemic tampered with its development, a wonderful silver lining of local reinforcement, in the form of DJs and creators, was on the rise. Two of those talents, Di Linh and Trinh Nu become heroic subjects in this documentary, as Dobson follows both their stories on how they established themselves with integrity over the last couple of years.
A truly special factor that Dobson couldn’t resist once it dawned upon him, is how Hanoi’s scene of underground DJs upholds strong community values. As he dove into the city’s web of creatives and musical do-gooders, it was when Toby realised how deep and wide-reaching Hanoi’s network goes; it reaches far beyond the handful of venue spaces and falls into the more diverse personal accounts that are really only spoken about amongst the plethora of shared-value communities.
Speaking to Mixmag Asia Vietnam, Toby says, "One of the biggest difficulties I had when making the film was that the scene in Hanoi is so much bigger than I was able to capture. There are so many more collectives, DJ's, event venues and a larger creative community that I just couldn't fit into the film, as much as I wanted to. In the end I made the decision to pick a few stories to tell in greater detail, so the film doesn't cover everything in our community, but hopefully I've given people a small window into what is happening.”
Making use of his insider perspective, as he is a DJ too, Toby emphasises the community's strong sense of "welcoming" and "support" to anyone.
"I was pretty late getting into music in a deeper sense. At university I used to listen to a lot of terrible commercial stuff, but it was when I was living in Melbourne that I really developed a passion for music. The scene there is incredible and I spent every weekend in venues across the city, exploring and discovering music that just hadn't really been available to me until that point. Then when I moved to Hanoi I was so happy to discover the scene here and really fell in love with the kind-of-DIY aspect of it. Everything was far less developed which kind of made it feel more accessible in a way."
He goes on to add, "Since starting the film, I really got close with everyone, they are all so welcoming. Eventually I was given chances to play, and since then I've been able to play in clubs and festivals all over Vietnam, I've even started producing and releasing my own music now. I think that's just testament to how inclusive and supportive everyone is. If anyone wants to get involved, they will be given the chance.”
In partnership with Mixmag Asia and Mixmag Asia Vietnam, Toby Dobson brings Hanoi’s burgeoning underground scene to film.
Watch Hanoi Awakening below.
Arun Ramanathan is Mixmag Asia’s Director. Follow him on Instagram.