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[Video] Ha Giang Rap Video is an Earnest Call for Mental Health Awareness

In 2012, Ian Paynton’s catchy rap track ‘Oi Gioi Oi’ went viral. Now he’s back with a cinematic video, shot in Ha Giang, that calls out for mindfulness in the age of digital addiction.

With May recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949, the song’s release is timely. We sat down with Paynton to talk about collaboration, social media and Void, the mental health Facebook group for men he founded last year.

'Oi Gioi Oi' went viral in 2012. Its lyrics refer to stress, but 'Find Me in the Mountains' is very different in tone. How would you say your focus and songwriting has shifted since then?

Oi Gioi Oi was basically written to make people laugh, which I think is why it got shared so much. People like catchy and funny stuff, don’t they? It was more about having fun in Hanoi, the city that I love. 

But Find Me In The Mountains is a much more serious representation of me and how I was feeling when I wrote it a year ago and how I feel today also – there’s no catchy chorus, no foreigner mispronouncing Vietnamese phrases, no humour. Just me putting it out there that I’m not always feeling great, what with anxiety, stress, ambition, perfectionism, personal growth, the internet, politics, the planet - to name just a few.

While Oi Gioi Oi was written with the audience in mind, Find Me In The Mountains is written for me mainly, and whoever else might appreciate it. The only similarity between the two projects is that they’re both based in Vietnam.

Why Ha Giang?

I’ve been visiting Ha Giang for almost ten years and it blows me away every time. I’ve always imagined living up there one day. It was only right I film a project about escaping to nature in my favourite place on earth. I wanted to show Ha Giang (and Cao Bang) in a very real and raw way.

You collaborated with Vincent Baumont and TuanSS for this track. What was it like working with them?

Awesome. Vincent is such a pleasure to work with and TuanSS is probably the nicest guy I’ve ever met. Both are so talented and I’m really thankful. They both gave up their time to follow me around the mountains for five days for my personal project, which is now our personal project. Their openness to collaborate really means a lot. Cameraman Duc Be and Sound Engineer Nguyen Ngoc Tan were also on the team and fully deserve a shout out.

 'Void' (mental health conversations for men) presents this video. What's the story there?

Last year I created the Void (mental health conversations for men) Facebook group. A space for men online. A place to share content and ideas about mental health – the sort of stuff men might not feel comfortable sharing on their public timelines.

I wrote and produced the video completely separately from the Void group, but realised a few weeks ago that they both have similar messages. Especially with the lyrics, “Friends on the internet, gather ‘round let’s have a chat”, and generally putting yourself out there as “not ok” rather than needing to put up a front. So I decided to use this video to promote the group a bit more during Mental Health Awareness Month. Void’s only got 108 members, but I’m sure there are more men out there who could do with the support the group offers.

So Void is an attempt to bring mindfulness to what's often an anxiety-inducing digital space?

It seemed like there was a massive gap in social networks generally for male-based mental health conversations. Void is mainly about having a place to open up in, and for members to say how we really feel. A place to meet like-minded men (and those who can relate to the male experience), where we can talk about everything from “what our dads were like” to stress, anxiety, depression, gratitude, as well as links to decent books, music and, yes, meditation channels.

There’s a few questions to answer before being granted access to Void, but I hope more men will join the group from all around the world and know that there’s a place to share their experiences of mental health and show up as the most authentic version of themselves, without the need to worry about what their social media “friends” might think.

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