Boney M in Viet Nam

I was sitting in the front passenger seat of a green taxi cab in Hanoi, Vietnam.  I felt pretty good about this taxi for two reasons…

1. There was a plastic box over the meter tracking our distance and cost. This meant the driver was less likely to dishonestly tamper with the meter, deceiving us into paying more. My sister and her husband were in the back, holding their new daughter Ava (click here for her adoption video) who was born less than a year earlier in central Vietnam. The plastic guard put me at ease, but that wasn’t all that contributed to the happy good feeling.

2. The music playing on the car stereo. This particularly catchy song playing over the speakers had such a vintage, timeless feel. The lyrics were fantasticly odd, too, with lines about “a man in Russia long ago.” I couldn’t figure whether the song was a new hit by a band like the Scissor Sisters, or a 30-year-old classic. I later found out the song was called “Rasputin” and guess what, it was from the 1970s. I became the biggest fan of the group responsible for “Rasputin,” they’re name was Boney M. Who?

That’s right, I said it, Boney M. Click here to find their best songs, from Amazon: Greatest Hits

The more you say it the less you’ll feel weird saying it, I promise.

I researched Boney M (say it again!), Boney M, and discovered more of their famed history. Why hadn’t I heard them in the States? They must’ve been more popular in countries outside North America, however, they are closely linked to a well-known U.S. band from the late 1980s. They’re connection to this U.S. band is Frank Farian, Boney M’s creator and producer, who later produced the lip-sync kings we all know as Milli Vanilli. Some Milli Vanilli hits include, “Blame It on the Rain” and “Girl, You Know It’s True.”

[click here for parodies of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”]

Vietnam produced for me a niece and a new appreciation for the international superstars Boney M. Soon after returning to the U.S. from my two-week-long adventure in Vietnam, I found out a Christmas song is credited to Boney M, as well. The song called “Mary’s Boy Child/ Oh My Lord” continues to be a very popular holiday song to this day. Boney M’s hits include “Hooray! Hooray!,” “Rasputin,” “Rivers of Babylon,” “Ma Baker,” “Brown Girl in the Ring” and “Daddy Cool.”

Even in 2011, Boney M is a popular band around the world, these songs being introduced to younger generations through avenues like YouTube and iTunes. Just type in Boney M on YouTube and you’ll see they are just as popular as Celine Dion’s hit “My Heart Will Go On” (Ok, that’s another story for another posting!). It just goes to show that good music is good music, no matter what decade it is, what continent you’re on, or what color your taxi cab is.

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27 thoughts on “Boney M in Viet Nam

  1. I’m Tuff, a Mongolian living in the USA. I’m glad you liked Boney M.
    Boney M, Dschinghis Khan, Modern Talking and Rafaella Carra were favorites of mine among others during the 70’s and 80’s and they were very popular all over the world. However, I was in culture shock in the USA because noone knew about them including those who lived in Europe during the 70’s and 80’s. The most shocking was that they were unwilling to know about these music and still insisted that only the US pop music was popular in the world. Practically, only foreign popular music Americans know seem to be Beatles, Abba and Spice Girls.
    This shock led me to seek to find out what might be the reason why it is. I’ve talked to many people who seemed to know about it, and they said that the US has very strong policy to protect its market from foreigners (foreign pop music) especially since the Beatles and Abba. It’s like Americans are behind ”iron curtain” that prevents them knowing what’s happening in the world, what the world is listening to, what is popular in the world. It’s true not only in regard to music but also other areas. The US media seems to darken everything about post soviet countries (may be except Vietnam.)

    • Wow, thanks for the response. What you said is very interesting, and I think I have to agree with it. It does seem as if there is some sort of wall that keeps popular music from other countries from coming to the US. Very interesting stuff. I guess that’s why I hadn’t heard much about Boney M until I was outside the US borders. Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  2. Thanks for the your journey to my Việt Nam country. I’m VietNamese. I’m very glad when was read this article of you. My level of english is very bad. However, I very like to listen music English. I usually download songs with them lyrics on http://www.youtube.com to satisfy my enthusiasm and improve level of english. I like Boney M, too. I am training song “Rivers of Babylon” in order to sing by karaoke with my friends. I like song “Casablanca”, too.It be song by Bertie Higgins. At present, I am living and working in HỒ CHÍ MINH city. I’m a teacher. My professional is philosophy. I’m twenty eight year old.
    Thanks author Driftwood. Goodluck!

  3. Thanks for your reply. At present, Iam memorizing the lyrics of songs English. When you come VIET NAM in the furture, welcome to HO CHI MINH city. My city is very dynamic and people in here very friendly. However, you’ll encounter suddenly because motorbikes is very crowed. He..he..he.
    Thanks again for your reply.

  4. Hey, that’s a really good story!:) I have a similar experience with Boney M and Vietnam! When I was in Vietnam for 1 month in 2008, I was on an overnight bus from Hanoi to the Central Coast. It was a sleeper bus where mostly people are lying down trying to get some sleep as the journey is 12-13 hours. Anyway, about 1 hour into the bus journey, things were pretty quiet on the bus and out of nowhere, the driver put on the ‘Best of Boney M’ through the speakers. It was so random but nice to have something to listen to! Unfortunately this was the only tape/CD the bus driver had so it went on repeat for hours and hours of our bus journey! It was very funny. I will always have memories of that night because of Boney M and that fun Vietnamese bus driver 🙂

    Regards,

    Totallytrees (Ireland)

  5. I had an almost exact same experience when I was in Vietnam last month. I was in Hanoi in a Mai Linh taxi and I heard their song Rivers of Babylon. My girlfriend knew who they were but I had never experienced Boney M. It will always remind me of Hanoi! Thank you Vietnam I love you!

    • Thanks for replying. It’s too bad we had to discover Boney M outside of our own country, but the silver lining is that we discovered Boney M! They’ll always remind me of Hanoi also.

  6. I first heard Mary’s Boy Child on the radio a few years ago, loved it, and a daughter tracked down a CD with it included and it has become a family standard every year to sing along and dance to!

    • Thats awesome! Yeah I had no idea that the band I heard in Vietnam and fell in love with was also responsible for Christmas songs that had I loved for years! I was happy to connect them make the connection. Sounds like your family has a great tradition!!

  7. Lovely and funny story 🙂 I enjoyied myself reading, thanks for sharing! I tried to remember when was the very first time when I heard these guys’ music. It was back in ’79 in Libya. I’m from Romania myself, but my daddy was working there. This band was very popular in Europe and across the world, I was very surprised myself when I firstly went to the US and nobody heard about them! I wouldn’t say it was a sort of the Government’s blocking them like our Mongolian friend said above. Maybe Boney M, Frank Farian and their marketing team didn’t pay enough attention to the American market I guess… However, none of the European Top Hits were popular to the US. Your folks never heard about Modern Talking, Sandra, Michael Cretu, CC Catch, Joy, Silent Circle, etc, etc. 🙂

    • Yeah, it was an eye-opening experience for me in music when I went to Vietnam. I was naive in thinking that the popular American artists were also the most popular around the world. In Vietnam, I quickly learned they had their own stars… that I had never heard of! I felt like I have been missing out on so much more, and still wonder why artists in other countries don’t cross over to the US very often. But I’m sure glad I came across Boney M! Who are some other artists in your country that are popular right now?

  8. Had the same experience as an American in Asia about 12 years ago. Brits, German and Japanese would be singing along to Boney M songs in bars, with the same sort of nostalgic reverence that Americans treat the songs from Grease. My reaction was, where did these songs come from…and of course found the same answers you did.

    • Thanks for the comment Rob. I’m just glad you and I stumbled across Boney M at all, seems like we would’ve missed out had we not. I wonder what else is out there we’re missing!?

  9. Voir sur you tube .la chanson de hooray ! hooray ! il y a un accrodeoniste qui a changé les paroles et voilà il a composé et fait succés

  10. I disagree with some of you and agree completely with Cosmin Gheorghita: They were very famous in the 70’s and 80’s all over Europe. I didn’t know that about the US. In Spain, their Christmas songs and others were listened everywhere in the late 80’s- wherever winter or summer- together with other groups of that time. They were also frequently on TV. Perhaps, the problem was that they became very popular, listened and people got bored, so now, oldies don’t pay too much attention on them, except the new remix born a few years ago. Thanks for the anecdote, Driftwood!

    • That’s very true my brother Koech. Mary’s Boy Child will remain the greatest hit of all times , a gift from BoneyM group
      George Muigai
      From: Kenya

  11. BZN was a Dutch group that sang in many European languages but many of their hits were in English – they never got played in the U.S. – fantastic group!

  12. This is such an odd coincidence. I’m currently on a circuit through SE Asia, and first heard the Hooray, Hooray song on a rickety bus in Sabah, Malaysia. I was backpacking through Borneo, and hopped on a bus to take me to the Sepilok Nature Preserve to see some orangutans. The bus had a big ol’ flat screen hanging from the front, and sure enough, they blasted pirated music videos.
    When they started up the music, Boney M’s Holiday song was the first to play. I couldn’t look away from that video. It has burned its way past my retinas and deep into my brain, and will forever remind me of my trip to Borneo.

    • That is fascinating! I went in 2006 and now even 9 years later they are still playing Boney M’s music. Maybe they only play it when tourists are within listening distance, some kind of conspiracy to make us think those songs are still popular? No way. The music is too good for anyone to try tricking people like that. When I was there, we heard Celine Dion “My Heart Will Go On” over and over, in different locations (and this was 7 years after the Titanic movie was in theaters. Crazy stuff. Hope you’re enjoying Asia!

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