California Dreaming: the nearly forgotten subculture of Vietnamese New Wave 1980s-90s from Little Saigon, California.
By Dan Nguyen (Demonslayer)
A new era of sound and style was birthed by the flourishing Vietnamese community of Little Saigon in Orange County, California in the 1980s-90s. An entire subculture crystalized through dance halls and night clubs, independent record labels and singers (along with their diehard fans and bootleggers). The sound of Vietnamese New Wave and Disco, ChaCha and Pop were flourishing on the streets of Bolsa, in restaurants and shops, playing loudly on local TV and radio, with music videos eventually going nationwide on MTV.
The community was made up of local and overseas Vietnamese, some fresh off the boats and planes, collectivly navigating a new, chaotic foreign land called the United States of America. The new kids united through the lens of synthesizers and drum machines, flashing lights and fast cars – unknowingly creating a new subculture in the process.
Dan Nguyen (Demonslayer) has been unearthing the obscure relics of the scene, archving the sights and sounds for well over a decade. A first generation Vietnamese born in Southern California, Dan was introduced to Vwave as a young child by his older teen uncles and cousins, who had integrated themselves into the city after coming from Vietnam.
Growing up to be a Music producer and global touring DJ, Dan used his technical audio engineering experience to remaster and reedit the low quality Vwave recordings from the 80s, bringing them back to life and compiling them into two free compilations Vwave.bandcamp.com. The collections are paired with an accompanying mix (including unreleased songs) on the widely popular NTS Radio.
Dan’s background as a visual artist and creative director allowed him to properly catalogue and document the many visual aspect of the Vwave subculture. Rare photos, visually stunning cassettes and treasured VHS rips are digitized and scanned; marking them safe from being lost forever to the hands of time. A mini artbook will be available at the exhibition, containing rare imagery from Dan’s personal collection of cassettes, VHS screen caps and more.
Take a trip back into 1989 Little Saigon, California, when the Vietnamese community came together and found solace through the sounds of the electronic drums and neon lights. Music brings us together.
opening: Wednesday, January 17 2024 (6 pm – 10 pm)
the exhibition will run from January 17 – February 3, 2024
January 20, 25, 26 & 27 (6 pm to 9 pm)
February 1, 2 & 3 (6 pm to 9 pm)
or by appointment (call +84 (0)90 449 7769 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
location: A. Farm Studios @ Tree House, 6/4 Nguyen Dang Giai, Thao Dien, Thu Duc, Ho Chi Minh City
Media partners Saigoneer and V2X