At a small garden cafe in Ho Chi Minh City (locally known as Saigon), the heat of the noon sun poured over the wrought-iron tables. With iced coffee in hand, I met with singer Luna Rosendal to talk about her journey to South East Asia from Danish Freetown Christiania, ahead of her upcoming appearance at the Vietnam premiere of the new Bond film Spectre.
Ms. Rosendal, 26, hails from Copenhagen, specifically the free-town located within the city called Christiania.
”We have our own laws and flag and community. It’s a super creative place,” remarked Ms. Rosenthal, ”a very different place from what you would see in the rest of Denmark.”
Christiania’s fame is well established across the EU as an independent hub of creativity. Over the past 4 decades, criticism from Danish government over the free-town’s open sale of cannabis, property-ownership models, and involvement with organized gangs, continually threaten to shutter the Anarchist community of under 1000 people.
In this creative enclave, Rosendal’s musical history began early.
”It came to me slowly since I was very young,” she said, starting singing lessons at the age of 7, the “early years around all this creativity is what started my passion.”
Life in South East Asia
Rosendal’s travels to South East Asia also started early, since the age of five – returning with parents that worked as freelancers half the year in the region.
In 2010 she visited the region solo, until finally settling in Vietnam in 2014. Expectedly, Rosendal found the experience adjusting to living in SEA easy.
“Culture wise I felt very much at home,” she said, comparing her travels from Malaysia and Indonesia. “I wasn’t surprised about things that didn’t go the way Í wanted them to or things being slow,” laughing and sipping her drink, “I also realized after a few months – it still annoyed me.”
Knowing the market in the region for teachers, Rosendal taught singing lessons privately for mostly expat clients. It was not long before she received a call from famed Soul Music Academy about hosting foreign vocalists. Soon, Rosendal was instructing and developing teaching methods with her Vietnamese colleagues for student instruction.
“I came to love it a lot,” she said, “this is where they are producing young Vietnamese stars.”
But this recognition was only the beginning, as Ms. Rosendal began regular performances at Ho Chi Minh City nightlife institution La Fenetre Soleil, while providing backing vocals for Funk act Dat Phonk. This led to Ms. Rosenthal’s collaboration with American vocalist/guitarist Lindsey Sanna and Irish singer Maeve Meleady on harmonic project Red Amity. As Ms. Rosendal’s popularity spread, she produced music with artists from other genres including electronic duo Space//Panther and James and the Van Der Beeks lead bassist Gareth Katz.
Rosendal’s tenacity put her in touch with VBL Breweries and Heineken Vietnam.
“[The organizers] called me one day, and said that [they] had heard Red Amity at a gig,” quipped Rosendal, “[they] knew another singing teacher at Soul Music Academy and saw my photos.”
The premiere, which included A-list Vietnamese stars and a red-carpet gala, was one of the biggest premieres in recent memory for the South East Asia nation.
Photos and Words by Seamus Butler