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  • Henry Johnstone

Maggie Tra embraces her heritage on new album 'Very Vui'

The DJ and producer opens up on the making of her sophomore album.


Maggie Tra embraces her heritage on new album 'Very Vui'

Australian born DJ and producer Maggie Tra is gearing up to release her new album Very Vui - the follow up to 2022's Kingdom Of Her. As Maggie tells us, the album is a sonic journey detailing her experiences of life, loss, and being torn between two identities. The album drops on 4 August and we're proud as punch to be hosting the launch party at our little clubbing den. In the lead up, we get the skinny on Very Vui and the stories that inspired its making ahead of the official drop.

 

What inspired the making of your new album?

The concept of Very Vui is to showcase my Vietnamese heritage, my experiences of living in Vietnam and acceptance of my father’s complicated background. I had a pretty intense childhood, with domestic violence and a father who abandoned us, which I have learnt only in the last years how much it has affected me and my relationships with men. I approached the making of this album a bit differently - instead of it being dark and eerie, I really wanted it to be a celebration of how accepted I feel in Vietnam. The country, during and after I lived there, has constantly supported me and my music, and it has brought so much inner healing for me, as I really didn’t know what to expect going back to my father’s country.


I wanted the album to showcase this journey. Whilst my family grew up with so much suffering, the aftermath is that it all had to happen in order for Vietnam to really show up for me. Like really, most of my tours are organised by Vietnamese creatives who live abroad. It’s such an overwhelming feeling, and sometimes I don’t feel worthy of it - especially given the complicated relationship between Cambodia and Vietnam. But making this album really cemented how grateful I am to make music and somewhat represent a country and part of me with utter joy. What an honour is that! I never really felt embraced with my Khmer heritage, but that’s something I am working on.


Can you tell us a little bit about your approach to making music and the equipment you use?

Half of the album was made in Sydney, Australia, and the other during my last trip to Vietnam in Hanoi and Saigon. I use Ableton and various samples. I don’t use too much gear as I make music on the road and I usually can only bring my laptop (I am a minimalist traveller), but I did muck around with Ableton Push, my Akai Midi and my Novation mini. A lot of my music uses foley and sounds from living in and travelling around Vietnam. So basically field recordings. Sometimes I forget to record because I am enjoying my time and moments in Vietnam but when I do, those field recording moments are so special.


I feel fortunate to have built a strong connection with both Australia and Vietnam, enough to call them both my home.

Were there any particular Vietnamese or Khmer artists who were inspiring you while making the album?

To be honest, I really went with how I felt with my myself and music, so no particular artists inspired me. I am more influenced by experiences and spaces and how I feel at the time. These things really shape my music more than anything. I guess, people? Like humans I have met in my travels and life.


You mentioned the use of field recordings in your music. What do you enjoy about this process?

The times I do capture something is when I feel at peace. Early mornings, with little traffic, in the cab-ride leaving Vietnam while crying. I enjoy this process because people talk a lot about relating to my music and those sounds capture moments in time of my life that take me back to simpler times - to community, to support, to love. A love that I have not only for myself, but Vietnam and what it continues to give me in life.


You’ve mentioned a struggle with your identity your whole life. Can you elaborate on that? Why do you feel this way?

I think for a long time, I just grew up thinking, I just need to be a strong woman, seeing what my mum went through. I didn’t fully understand her cultural background, nor my dad’s. I was born and raised in Australia, so for so long I only knew the Western world. But I knew I was different, you know? Having to live in almost two worlds, one in the outside world and then one at home. Fortunately there are loads of people with immigrant parents here, which makes it feel less lonely. While it was normal - because that’s all I knew - it was super confusing too.


It wasn’t until I moved to Asia that so many questions were answered for me. Why my parents behaved the way they did, understanding their suffering and that they did the best they could. I'm trying to change those patterns, I guess. I am still a work-in-progress - therapy helped me find myself more, which is why I say identity is something I struggle with. It’s very complex, however I feel fortunate to have built a strong connection with both Australia and Vietnam, enough to call them both my home.


Maggie Tra embraces her heritage on new album 'Very Vui'

Very Vui - track by track


1. Accept It

This track is about having expectations from my father, and wishing we had a better relationship together. I made this song, with that feeling of forcing myself to accept the situation for what it is.


2. Một Mình

'Một Mình' in Vietnamese means 'alone or by myself’. This song is about just understanding that I am alone and I must protect myself and my boundaries in order to grow.


3. Liberation

This song is about my first love, my ex. Confessing that he is my true love and trying again with him. I wrote him a letter and he responded in the most kind and loving way. Liberation was me living my truth and not being afraid to tell someone that I love them and the freedom of feeling that it's ok if it didn’t work out. I had no expectations, what’s important is that I faced my fears to share that feeling.


4. Slow Down For Me

This track is about telling myself to just bloody slow down, to be honest. A gentle reminder to myself.


5. Hanoi Ơi

I lived in Hanoi for three years. It’s where I started Pho The Girls and Hanoi Community Radio. It’s my home, so this song is a celebration of that.


Maggie Tra embraces her heritage on new album 'Very Vui'

6. Very Vui

Vui in Vietnamese is ‘happy’, so this is just a happy song. The vocals are from my dad’s recent visit to Vietnam with his partner. It was fun to sample their vocals. It’s like, yeah, we don’t have a great relationship, but you’re part of my journey and without you I wouldn’t have this connection with Vietnam, so let’s embrace that.


7. Pretty Chị

I made this song on my last day in Saigon. I was staying with a mate and really wanted to finish the album off in Vietnam. It’s a cosmic journey and one of my favourite DJs, Khoa Bicycle, back in the day called me "pretty chị" (sister) and I thought that was so wholesome. I wanted to capture that moment.


8. I Believe In Me

A song to remind myself to believe in myself.


9. Một Hai Ba

If you’ve been to Vietnam, they always cheers by saying "Một Hai Ba", which means "1,2,3". I went to my mate's wedding, captured this moment and popped it into a song.


10. Saigon Ơi

This song is about my time in Saigon, travelling with Tu Pham when we went down for a music festival. It’s our conversation of her saying she wants to go eat hot pot and her calling out to the waiter. Those moments in Vietnam are so special to me, so I love playing with vocals as it takes me back to a place and time.



11. Em Chị

Em Chị means 'sisters'. This song is about celebrating the sisters in my life who have uplifted and inspired me. Particularly my own sister, and of course the ems and chi’s that take care of me in Vietnam.


12. Listening

A song to remind myself to stop and just listen. Don’t react and accept myself for who I am.

 

Maggie Tra launches Very Vui at Club 77 on Friday 4 August. Event info HERE

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