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Vietnam Uses Rap Music to Report the News

Rappers Vo Viet Phuong, left, and Nguyen Trong Duc record Rap News Plus at Vietnam News Agency's studio in Hanoi, Vietnam, July 2014. (Marianne Brown)

Rappers Vo Viet Phuong, left, and Nguyen Trong Duc record Rap News Plus at Vietnam News Agency's studio in Hanoi, Vietnam, July 2014. (Marianne Brown)

The Vietnamese media industry is changing as it faces growing competition from the Internet. One website has come up with a way to reach out to young people. It uses rap music to report the news.

That was the rap version of a report about the end of football’s World Cup in Brazil. To date, there have been nearly 20 editions of Rap News Plus. Most of the programs include stories covered in Vietnam’s traditional media.

Rap News Plus is published mainly on video sharing websites like YouTube. Some videos have been watched over 500,000 times.

Le Quoc Minh works for Viet Nam Plus. He says he wanted to find a way to make news appealing to people between the ages of 13 and 25. He says that age group has lost interest in traditional news.

“We need to bring them something new, something interesting, something funny. But the way we select topics and the way we present it is serious enough. So I bring the seriousness to the young people using their own language, using their own taste, their music. And that’s my concept.”

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One of the rap reports was published after China set up an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam. The incident led to increased tensions between the countries. Twenty-five-year-old Vo Viet Phuong is one of three rappers heard on the report. He says he uploaded the chorus of the report to the online music sharing platform Soundcloud. He says people started downloading it for use as a ringtone on their wireless devices.

Rapping the news is not a new idea. But it is surprising in Vietnam because Viet Nam Plus operates under the official Vietnam News Agency, VNA. The organization is known for its conservative way of thinking about news.

“Many others are very surprised when Viet Nam Plus has such a project because we belong to something really conservative, very mainstream. We do not come from a company or something entertaining, but we produce something really entertaining, informative at the same time.”

David Brown is a former United States diplomat and an expert on Vietnam. He says most Vietnamese newspapers depend on some kind of government support. But he adds that many profit-making publications are more likely to push the limits of the law.

“In general, as you would expect of any publications which are essentially profit-making they are looking at ways to cater to the things their audiences want to read and they are interesting, even if there are no-go areas, such as shall we say a profound discussion of the relations between the Vietnamese and Chinese Communist parties or something like that.”

Right now, Rap News Plus does not make a profit. Le Quoc Minh and his team pay for everything when making the videos. However, the rappers do not get paid. Mr. Minh says his main goal is to keep the reports truthful. He adds that businesses can support Rap News Plus, but the reports will not talk about any product names.

“At least we have to respect our listeners. We are talking about the news, not the brands. Even if they bring us the money but we cannot accept this kind of money.”

The Rap News Plus design is a groundbreaking step for the Vietnamese media. The news provider now faces the test of keeping the content new and fresh for a younger audience.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

This report was based on a story by reporter Marianne Brown.

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