Hannnnnnoiiiiii oi boyeeeeeeeeee!
Well, what would you expect to make up the programme for a South African cultural week? In the past it must have been a fascinating list; how to construct a laagar using three wagons or less, how to dry meat to the point where it takes you half an hour to chew a piece, 1001 uses for an electrical flex and a unwilling companion, or staircase safety lessons for police stations...but that is soooo passe. Come to think about it, I don't think South Africa even had an embassy in Vietnam prior to majority rule, and certainly wouldn't have put on a night like I have just experienced.
Picture the scene. A balmy night in Hanoi, a big fat orange half moon leering over the city, insects flickering like sparks in the headlights, the streets teeming with motorbikes on the roads leading to the Giang Vo exhibition centre. An excited air of anticipation could be felt as we pulled up at the entrance, driving through to the motorbike parking lot via a gigantic red and yellow star shaped gate. Having received complimentary tickets (I put it down to my heartfelt commitment to South African culture...or maybe it's payback for attending those ground-hog day Anti-Aparthied rallies in Trafalgar Square), we skipped the 50,000 VND fee, and entered the hall.
Yep, it was going to be a good one.
Now we're talking.
My ribcage for the first time in Vietnam is feeling that familiar tickle of the subwoofer.
South African Hip-Hop is definately in the house - along with 2,000 Vietnamese and a smattering of ex-pats getting on down. On the stage, DJ Rudeboy Paul was just starting his set, dueting with an old geezer in traditional dress who is hammering his percussion kit like there's no tomorrow, but that's just part of what's going on.
A single South African woman is dancing centre stage, while Vietnamese comperes stalk the stage whipping up the crowd - that to be honest, needs no encouragement whatsoever. One of the compares leans next to the dancer, and exclaims to the crowd 'Oi gioi oi!!!!' (Oh my God!!!!) as she starts rotating her hips in a provocative manner.
Hanoi B-boys and home girls roar encouragement, a female Vietnamese MC steps to front of the stage and begins her interplay with the crowd. 'HAAAAANNNNNOOOIIII OI!!!!' she screams - literally 'Hey, Hanoi!', but in this case a call for more noise. The sound of the crowd increases, as the nodding heads are joined by thousand of hands in the air, lit up by streaks of gold and green as the lighting rig spews colours across the masses.
As the stage is cleared of superfluous MCs, comperes and hangers-on, the real business of the night begins. The South Africans have brought a break dancing crew and a proper old skool battle is just about to begin. The SA boys do their stuff for a bit, the crowd delighted by their skills, and then the Vietnamese crew step up to the challenge, and despite a few indiscretions (like interrupting the SA boys doing their thing) kill the visitors, their muscle to fat ratios meaning they leap like salmons, at some points seeming to press the gravity defying pause button while supporting their entire body weights on one hand. Seconds later one of the Vietnamese calls for a re-examination of the laws of physics as he slides five feet on the palm of one hand. Having got the opposition beat, the Vietnamese whip the crowd to a frenzy with a lilting 'Vietnam' football chant...and then it's all over. Mutual respect is given after a few humourous hip thrusts, and the boys leave the stage...
While the main stage is the centre of people's attention, at the back the younger Vietnamese have their own entertainment going on, as a circle is formed and they chuck themselves around like spinning tops attempting to ape the moves they've just seen on stage, reputations are being won and lost in the blink of an eye, but every participant be they successful or not are well received.
Finally we twig that our complimentary tickets allow us entry to the VIP area where apparently beer is available (no alcohol is being sold in the main hall), so as the night draws to a close we end up on the balcony looking down on the activities below, while tucking into spiced meat balls and 7UP (the beer was off by the time we got there).
It's the sort of night that puts a smile on your face, and you can't help but think that the enthusiasm of the crowd for the performers - who in truth were competant but not amazing - would be something else if they ever got to see any of the bands or DJs we take for granted in Britain.