For Vietnam’s Hoang Touliver, now a sought-after DJ and music producer, his journey to where he is today has been an epic struggle that started from ground “minus zero”: a country that did not understand the genre with no music-market viability, no monetization, no fans.
Through this struggle, Touliver has channeled his passion of making music since a very young age. Given the opportunity to train classically on piano, he went off-track, falling in love with modern pop music instead, although he was fascinated by orchestration and how an orchestra comes together as one.
His pursuit of music was frowned upon by his family — as traditional values and careers was the norm for most Vietnamese families — but he was determined. Secretly, he did all he could to train himself to master music production.
“I began making beats on an electronic keyboard at age 13, and it was not until I was 19 that I was able to buy my very own midi-controller for learning to be a DJ,” Touliver shared. “From then on, I completely immersed myself into producing and composing music.”
In 2010, when modern Vietnamese music was still very much underground and trying to find its way out, Touliver started SpaceSpeakers. He collected a group of like-minded music makers within the underground scene, and through that, it gave him an opportunity to produce some of his well-known hits with his teammates by creating remixes of songs such as “Ngày Mai” (“Tomorrow”), “Mr Right” and “Ngày mai em đi” (“Tomorrow You Go”), along with an amazing collection of hits he produced, such as “Gene,” “Em Ơi Cứ Vui” (“Oh baby just keep having fun”) and “Em Không Thể” (“I Can’t”).
From then on, Touliver was on his way to making his impact on the Vietnamese music industry. Back in those days, to sustain as a musician in the music landscape of Vietnam was both challenging and frustrating. Touliver described: “There were times when my work reached dead ends, and opportunities were few, it was a hard time then. However, I never gave up on my dreams. Music is my life, and I just cannot think of any other thing I would do.”
By working with different music influences, he opened his mind and the vision for his work. “When I was a kid, I would listen to a song and think about what went into its production, and then I would listen to different genres… from classical, to soundtracks, to tech, house, to just expand my horizons in music,” he shared.
Together with his classical piano training, the impact has shaped him. “Classical music helped me to better understand the sounds made by various musical instruments, how they come together to harmonize as one,” he explained. “I put a lot of effort combining rhythm with sounds against an electronic-based music background. And the part I enjoy most is the explosion of different colors.”
In the past few years, the Vietnamese music industry is emerging and has made leaps and bounds, shaping itself into an industry that has drawn multi-national record labels and global streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music into the fabric of Vietnam’s music market.
Touliver sees this as a positive indicator and the first step for Vietnamese music to step out to an international audience. However, he also said that in order to appeal to this audience, everyone would need to challenge their own standard, including himself, and to not give up on submitting their work to artists and international labels. The producer supports the next generation of talent, sharing, “For young Vietnamese producers and artists… one’s work should always be a reflection of one’s personality, of who we are.”
With that, Touliver revealed his big plan for 2020: release an upcoming dance-music album. Excited about the new album’s production sound, Touliver said, “With the sound of modular synths, this time, I have invested much on the harmonies, melodies, electronic sounds and analogs.”
Humble and never forgetting where he came from, he intends to release the new music with the consortium he originally started with: SpaceSpeakers. As his star continues to rise as one of Vietnam’s top DJs and an increasing demand from local and regional artists who want to work with him, all in all, 2020 is expected to be a very busy year for Hoang Touliver, and we expect to see his name alongside other international names soon.