With a powerful voice that sings, speaks, and screams, and a style that defies genre, Vietnamese pop star-turned protest singer Mai Khoi performs her storytelling song cycle “Bad Activist.”
In this performance, she tells her story about blazing trails as an artist-activist living under an authoritarian regime, and shares the risks and rewards of speaking truth to power through music. Drawing on a wide variety of influences, from traditional Vietnamese folk to blues, soul and rock, Mai Khoi has been compared to Pussy Riot and dubbed the Lady Gaga of Vietnam. Though she has had her concerts raided, faced retaliatory eviction from her home, and been detained and interrogated by the police, Mai Khoi continues to use her music and voice to fight for freedom of expression and human rights in Vietnam and around the world. Songs are performed both in English and in Vietnamese with English translation.
“Mai Khoi might just as easily be described as Vietnam’s Björk or Laurie Anderson…If music alone could break chains, this would be the music to do it.” – The Economist
Mai Khoi is the current musician in residence with the Safe Haven Incubator for Music NYC (SHIM:NYC), an artist-at-risk residency program recently launched by Artistic Freedom Initiative and Tamizdat. SHIM:NYC is hosted at Westbeth Artists Housing and is piloted as part of the New York City Artist Safe Haven Residency Program.
Photography by Nosrat Tarighi