Hanoi Henry: Henry Rollins Grooves to Funkadelic in Ho Chi Minh City, Bears Witness to the Still Open Wounds of America's Most Controversial War and Broadcasts Straight Outta Vietnam's Busy Streets
[The one and only Henry Rollins will be contributing a weekly column and far-reaching reportage to the music section of the LA Weekly. Look for your weekly Henry Rollins fix right here on West Coast Sound every Friday and make sure to tune in to Henry's KCRW radio show every Saturday evening, or online, or as a podcast, or however else you decided to listen to the most eclectic DJ on LA's airwaves.
Maura Lanahan Our eminent columnist, Mr. Henry Rollins!
This installment includes Henry's trips to Buthan and Vietnam, his visit to a medical center that treats Agent Orange victims and their children, plus the awesomely annotated playlist for his KCRW BROADCAST #83 for tomorrow, Saturday 10-2-10. For more details please visit KCRW.com and HenryRollins.com]
I am in a hotel room in Hanoi, Vietnam, or Ha Noi, Viet Nam as it called here. I am in the relative cool of the early afternoon, having spent the top half of the day outside, perspiring freely. I am listening to Funkadelic's "Hardcore Jollies", a masterpiece of raw greatness.
The last time I checked in with you, I was on my way to Bhutan. I spent a few days there and while beautiful, it was slow moving and a bit too peaceful to keep the roaring monsters of my mind at bay. I asked if there was a crematorium in Thimphu, where I was staying and was told that indeed, there was. I went there in the late morning and asked if it would be permissible for me to attend a cremation. I was told that wouldn't be a problem if I was discreet. I was told that there was to be at least two bodies cremated that afternoon.
I returned later in the day to see that four wrapped bodies had been prepared for cremation.
I sat at a respectable distance and watched as relatives for the four departed arrived. After that, several monks arrived. They went into a small building. A PA system was turned on and for the next two hours, the monks prayed for the dead. It was one of the most powerful things I have ever heard. The intensity never wavered, no breaks were taken. The haunting sounds of the horns and the voices only seemed to pick up momentum as the minutes passed. It is a relentless and churning sound they make. They believe that the souls of the dead are lost and need to be called back. If any sound could do it, that was the one.
At one point, four young monks walked past me with wooden torches and lit the wood underneath the bodies:
After several minutes, I walked closer to the pyres to take a look. I noticed that the color of smoke had changed. I went to furthest pyre to the right and watched. I became aware of a hissing sound. My guide, Younten told me that was the sound of the body burning. He pointed to the second body from the left and told me that was where his father had been cremated a couple of years before. I stayed until dark. The fires were still going strong.
This is my second visit to Viet Nam.