Vietnam: Musician fined for publishing CD with “depraved contents”

31 July 2013

Ngọc Đại, a prominent experimental musician, was fined 30 million dong (app. US$ 1,500) for publishing and distributing his latest album without permission to do so. 1,000 copies of the album were printed, and almost sold out, before authorities reacted. It features lyrics by poets Bui Chat and Nguyen Dinh Chinh who allegedly are banned in Vietnam.


In a dispatch, the Performing Arts Agency asked the Departments of Culture, Sports and Tourism of all provinces in Vietnam on 10 May 2013 to coordinate with the authorities to inspect, withdraw and destroy all copies of the CD-album ‘Thang Mo 1’ by Ngoc Dai.

This was reported VietNamNet, Soha News, Vietnam Times, and other Vietnamese news channels.

According to the dispatch of the Performing Arts Agency, the music album ‘Thang Mo 1’ “has content that goes against the policies and the laws of the Party and the State, speaking ill of the regime. The language used in the songs is very vulgar, inconsistent with traditions, habits and customs of the nation. Based on the contents of the CD, the Performing Arts Agency saw this as a recording with objectionable and depraved contents.”

The agency concluded that Ngoc Dai simultaneously violated Section 1 Article 6 of Decree 79 of the Government on Performing Arts, Circulation and Business of Music and Dance Records, and Section 4 Article 13 of Decree 75 on the sanctioning of administrative violations in the field of culture.

Ngoc Dai told the press that he did not intend to challenge the authorities.

Two months after the incident, Deutche Welle’s reporter Marianne Brown reported from Hanoi that Ngoc Dai’s stand against censorship had stoked a debate on the future of experimental music in the communist country.

DW, Deutche Welle – 31 July 2013:
Edgy Vietnamese songwriter takes on the censors
Popular songwriter Ngoc Dai took the bold step of releasing an album in Vietnam without official permission. His stand against censorship has stoked a debate on the future of experimental music in the communist country. Article by Marianne Brown

The Diplomat – 7 July 2013:
Vietnam Censors Give Songwriter Ngoc Dai “Free Advertising”
Arguably Vietnam’s most controversial songwriter, Ngoc Dai, has been featured regularly in the Vietnamese press over the last few weeks after releasing a new album without official permission. Article by Marianne Brown

VietnamNet – 14 May 2013:
Ngoc Dai’s album to be withdrawn and destroyed
‘Thang Mo 1’ is said to have vulgar and reactionary content. The authorities wanted to see Ngoc Dai but the musician said he was sick.

Soha News – 10 May 2013:
CD ‘Thằng Mõ’ của nhạc sĩ Ngọc Đại là “không thể chấp nhận được”
CD ‘Thằng Mõ’ of musician Ngoc Dai is deemed “not acceptable”

The Vietnam Times – 9 May 2013:
Senior songwriter release sensitive album without license
Songwriter Ngoc Dai, a pioneer in contemporary, experimental music in Vietnam, has released his new CD that contains sexual language entitled ‘Thang Mo 1’ (Village herald 1) without a license from the authorities.

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