Artists of Hanoi: Felipe SalaS Sandoval
Written by Judith Barnes
Photos by Victoria S
At a glance, it is clear that musician and composer Felipe SalaS is a unique individual who is on his own path. He dons an artfully tattered sweater that matches a pair of well-worn leather loafers. His soulful eyes gaze at me behind a curly mop and a face half-hidden by a whimsical moustache. Peers have compared SalaS to the likes of Jeff Buckley and indeed Felipe does seem to enter a meditative state when he plays. During such songs as “Raindrops,” who’s rhythms mirror that of sad “Huaynos” from the Andes, his eyes close as he strums the guitar expertly. His voice is something of a solitary bird piercing the hush of a quiet forest; It casts a vocal spell, listeners can’t help but be transfixed by.
In fact, the Chilean born expat has been captivating audiences with his excellent musicianship since arriving in Hanoi in 2017. Although his original songs draw on the sounds of his South American background and he strives to weave the rhythms of that region with more modern applications of electronica, ‘beats,’ and even looping, his actual songwriting process comes about organically. Aside from perhaps taking a day or two for just writing lyrics, he never tries to sit down and compose. Like many creators, he prefers to bear things out of play and exploration. “Most of the time I just play around and have fun with the chords and discover new sounds.”
Yet, SalaS insists the real magic comes from collaboration with others. Aside from being a key member of the well-loved Hanoing Jazz Band, he has performed countless duos with a variety of music-doers including singers, keyboardists, violinists and more. One collaborator remarks on the seamlessness of his teamwork. Another recognizes how Felipe’s dedication to music shows through his consistent project-making and describes playing with him as being “exciting.” He also finds intrinsic value in connecting with fellow musicians but acknowledges how living in a community of expats from various corners of the world propels him and helps him to develop. “Being a foreign musician in Hanoi is a privilege. It’s like in science when genes from different people make the baby better. Music is the same.”
SalaS won’t grace the Hanoian stages forever though. On a recent festival tour to Italy, he became enamoured with the idea of Europe and has decided to try his luck in Berlin. He has regular gigs around the city though, so it’s entirely possible to catch him one last time before the departure date. Look out for a farewell birthday bash that’s also in the works.
You can enjoy and find more of Felipe’s music on his page https://www.facebook.com/felipe.salas.sandoval/