Let me dance. Let me sing. Let me put my feet in the sand. Let me live. Let me tell you about my weekend. These days, I feel like a different person. But honestly, maybe I’ve never felt more myself. I come from the states. The US undoubtedly has more live music entertainment options than anywhere else in the world. Seeing live music has been a large part of my life ever since I can remember. Living near Nashville, TN (the current music capital of the states, if not the world), my options of seeing any genre of music of any calibre on any given day had been virtually unlimited. Let’s just say, I’ve been spoiled in that realm. Since being in Asia, I’ve had to adapt.
I caught drift of An Bang Reggae Beach Fest a few months back. A small festival in the name of reggae taking place on the beautiful beaches of Hoi An, Vietnam, about 28 minutes down the coast from the city I reside. Back home I probably wouldn’t think much of going to a reggae festival. I enjoy the style and vibe of the genre, just not what I would typically call my scene. We as humans tend to miss out on a lot when we subscribe to certain ideals and personas of who and what we think we are. Break those down. New avenues can open up. One of those avenues might lead to happiness and enjoyment. You never know until you try.
It was Tuesday, 4 days before the celebration of art, love, and all things reggae under the sun and ocean breeze. The decision was made, I pulled the trigger, bought the tickets, and booked a homestay within walking distance of the venue. It was at that moment that I embraced the reggae fest. I was stoked.
I have a love hate relationship with Hoi An. The thought of going into the actual town gives me anxiety. Hoi An is a kind of touristic that I tend to avoid. An Bang, just outside the town however, is pretty damn dreamy. The thought of sleeping in a beautiful homestay bungalow within a minute walk to the quiet beach down a sandy path for the cost of 25$ USD a night while having a celebration of art and music to attend all weekend, gave me a feeling of gratefulness for this life I’m able to live.
My wife Lizzy was working late Saturday, so we didn’t make it down to An Bang till around 8:30 PM. We got situated into our homestay, popped open a Saigon and scooted on down to Soul Beach, the venue for the first night of the fest. As I entered I could feel it immediately. An Afrobeat band based out of Hanoi, by the name Zamina was on stage. Yes! The vibe was dank as hell. We made our move into the mix and began our bopping and grooving that didn’t stop till Sunday night. There were two stages, the live music stage, and the DJ stage on the beach just down the steps. Art was everywhere , canvases that were painted earlier , and fire dancers on the beach. People were spun. Seriously, people were spun. It was wonderful. After Zamina played we hopped down to the beach stage and got our dub reggae rap grove on before the live headliner that night. The headliner was Instigator Afrobeat Orchestra out of Singapore. They were a calibre of musicians on a level that I hadn’t seen since being in Vietnam. It was wonderful, and it set the tone for the entire weekend. Sami Lee, the French beatboxer mixer magician residing in Hoi An closed the live stage out that night with a set that was pure fiya . I guess you could call this festival a hardly strictly reggae music festival. No music I saw the first night was technically reggae, but it all brought the vibe and attitude as to what we often think of as “reggae". My heart was content. Lizzy and I stumbled down the beach back to our homestay, checking off a bucket list item on the way after going skinny dipping in the South China Sea. We eventually found our bed. Night 1, check. Night 1, success.
Waking up at a homestay in An Bang is absolutely lovely. Sun shines into your window as you peer into a garden of exotic plants and chirping birds. I had a morning of pure bliss. Not too hung over. Just right. Breakfast was served to our bungalow patio, followed by an hour long yoga stretch session. My mind was right. I lit my funky cigarette and gazed into the garden. If this is what they mean by reggae, then by all means, give me the reggae.
We slowly made our way down to the venue for the second day of festivities. It was at Soul Kitchen, only a 5 minute walk from our accommodation. We arrived early and things were next level chill. Not much was happening so we grabbed a couch, a few Hudas, and took some puffs on that plant the rastaman preaches about. Dj’s were playing dub mixed with traditional reggae tunes. I was into the moment. We were situated in the art zone. Canvases lie all around where random artist would have their way and create something in that very moment for the sake of creation. This is what art is all about. We could all use a little more expression in our lives. After a few dips in the sea, some gin and tonics, and lounging we went out for a dinner break to recoup for the headlining act that night.
When we arrived back at Soul Kitchen, local Hoi An Afrobeat band Cheben Teriya was playing and the vibe was grooving to similar tune of the previous night. We joined right in and the rain began to fall. Everyone embraced the wetness as it fell harder and harder. Those worried about their cell phones retreated to cover. The lucky ones stayed in the rain and kept the party going. The moment Cheben Teriya’s set was over, the Dj stage adjacent to the live stage kicked off to keep us all moving. Festivals require bits and pieces. You can’t miss a beat.
Now for the defining moment of the entire weekend. I introduce to you Srirajah Rockers, straight outta Thailand. This is the kind of reggae music I’m into. Seriously, I’m so into it. They put on a show with talent and energy I haven’t experienced in quite some time. It was certainly a special moment. The rain never stopped. It only added to everything. There was even an electrical fire at some point. Nothing could stop the positivity. Sirajah Rockers are an 8 piece band out of Thailand. They have these two female back up singers that give you that reggae sound you can only dream of. The front man brought an energy and feeling of a young Thai revolutionary begging for peace, sun, positivity, and freedom with a raw and rock n roll attitude. Tip top music. Tip top performance. Someone give this guy a joint. He repeatedly asked for one while on stage. I’m sure he found one.
I wrote a previous piece on the closing band Looney Tunes before. Check it out if you want an idea of what they’re all about. Since writing that, they’ve consistently been playing shows and gaining larger crowds. High energy ska was the perfect way to end the weekend. Lizzy and I were all bopped out and had to call it a night about half way into their set. Im positive the rest of the evening was, as they say, AN BANGING. I’m incredibly grateful to have these opportunities in life to live and experience this sort fun in my most purest sense. I’d like to give a big shoutout to all the organizers of this event, all the artists, and all the people who attended. Each and every one of you exceeded my expectations. I thank you for that. To all the artists I missed, shoutout to you as well, I’m sure it was fire.
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Contributor: Cody Baldwin. Follow him on social media @codythyme