16 Feb 2022
by brian.hioe | News, Interview, Feature
Electric Soul’s Brian Hioe spoke to Dean Roberts from Hanoi Community Radio.
Brian Hioe: Could you first introduce yourself for readers who might not know you?
Dean Roberts: My name is Dean Roberts and I’m originally from Cape Town, South Africa, but I moved to Hanoi, Vietnam in 2018. I’ve been working in radio for about ten years and joined Hanoi Community Radio mid 2021. I’m a DJ, presenter, sound engineer, and the volunteer manager at Hanoi Community Radio.
BH: How did you get involved in Hanoi Community Radio?
DR: I am very passionate about community radio–as opposed to commercial radio–and I had to leave that life coming to Vietnam. So when my good friend Maggie Tra founded Hanoi Community Radio, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved.
BH: How did Hanoi Community Radio start?
DR: Maggie saw the need for community vibes in Hanoi. I think she thought we were lacking some community “feels” in Hanoi. Basically, she wanted to create a safe space for the creative and music industries to connect. She’s full of ideas and is always coming up with new things to do for the community.
BH: What is it like running the station on a day-to-day basis?
DR: It’s been very interesting. Back home, I was just presenting and producing my own show. I wasn’t involved with the admin side of things. Getting involved with behind the scenes/admin work this year kept me on my toes and was really stimulating especially during lockdowns when there was nothing else to do. It’s quite a bit of work, but luckily there are a few of us that are sharing the workload.
We’ve been trying different avenues for workflow, to make workflow easier. Generally speaking, it’s been pretty easy flowing. I’ve never received so many emails in my life, but it’s been fun at least, I’m enjoying being kept busy.
BH: What are the challenges of running Hanoi Community Radio? Did you get affected by COVID?
DR: It’s really worked out for us, because we can do all of the work remotely. Virtually everything we do is done online. All of our presenters record from their houses. We really haven’t had any problems recording shows or running the station as a result of the lockdown.
We do have one segment where we have DJs doing live streams from our studio, that was the only part really affected, but we overcame that by getting DJs to do the streams from their homes.
BH: What projects are you currently working on at Hanoi Community Radio?
DR: After almost a year of operation at Hanoi Community Radio we finally managed to have our launch event IRL early December. So we were really looking forward to that. We had some of our presenters doing live broadcasts and had performances by local musicians at the iconic Hanoi Social Club.
Our ongoing projects include community events, gigs and workshops for new radio presenters. We have just confirmed our next event at a new venue in town called TÁCH SPACES happening on the 30th of December.
BH: As you’re coming up on this one-year anniversary, are there moments that you would point to as accomplishments, or things you’re proud of?
DR: I’m just generally proud of how we managed to hold space for local artists, musicians etc and give them a platform that was not available before.
We’ve been trying to push local DJs and looking for local people to work on the project with us. In fact, it's my goal to eventually find someone to take over my position, that would make me personally proud.
BH: It’s very interesting how community radio can platform artists for an international stage.
DR: Totally. That is one of our main aims. To give local artists that stepping stone to pass onto the next stage.
BH: It’s interesting that there is this culture of community radios that has developed across Asia. Are there influences or inspirations that you would point to?
DR: I’m really inspired by Seoul Community Radio. I would like to visit/collaborate with them so badly. I used to work at a community radio station in South Africa called Bush Radio. They really shaped my interests in community radio. They supplied important information and education to the people through the radio during a tragic time in our history, that really inspired me to work with community radio stations.
Besides Seoul, I also need to shout out Saigon Community Radio. They just started their station a few months ago. I hope they’re going to do some good things in the future!
BH: What kind of vibe is Hanoi Community Radio going for?
DR: We’re hoping to create an inclusive space where everyone is welcome. Anyone should be able to contribute, collaborate or get involved at a community station. We are run by the community, for the community. I hope we can get DJs from other community radio stations to come play with us or vice-versa. It would be lovely to have more connections!
BH: Community radios often seem to be spaces for experimentalism, which are not divided by genre. Would you also say that’s the case with Hanoi Community Radio?
DR: Totally. Personally, genre is the last thing I think about when inviting DJs to play for us.
In my experience, Hanoi doesn't have a huge experimental scene. IMO, the DJ scene as a whole is not that big yet and you mainly hear mainstream club genres like house, disco, techno, drum n bass and trance, even just comparing it to Saigon’s DJ scene which seems more sought after. I think Hanoi has a lot of room to grow and experiment when it comes to sound.
Vina House is very popular among locals in Hanoi but many find it cheesy or low-quality. I would like to see the genre evolve and experimentalism is probably needed for that!
BH: What are your plans post-COVID?
DR: Post-covid I would like to do more IRL workshops teaching people to do radio shows. I’d also like to link up with our neighboring community radio stations, starting with Saigon, Bangkok, Manila, etc, and eventually work our way to my favorites in Seoul.