Sharp FM 010: Triad God feat. Palmistry for Respira & Sharp Earth Pan Euro

Triad God is the nom de guerre of London-based MC Vinh Soi Ngan. Beyond his SoundCloud, he has no social media and takes years between releases, so it’s something of a coup that he made this mix for Sharp FM, which arrives with some extra love from the project's silent conjurer, producer and fellow Londoner Palmistry. Our cover and track list feature Ogg Fraktur, which is available via our early access Beta program, plus a first look at Earth Hanzi, custom-drawn by our Hong Kong-based senior designer Calvin Kwok.

Triad God in London

The cinematic sensibilities of Wong Kar-Wai dovetail with Andrew Lau in Triad God's music, and this mix reflects his inspirations, going from 90s Hong Kong pop to remixes of contemporary K-pop, gayageum and gu zheng instrumentals, and bits and clips from the world of gangster cinema: Lau's Young & Dangerous, Takeshi Kitano's Sonatine, Guy Ritchie's Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Triad does not disappoint and also includes edits of old songs and previews of brand-new material.

Core to his mystique is Triad's vocal delivery, which rarely rises above a confessional pitch, its sing-song timbre belying the irreverent gallows humor of the lyrics themselves, which are rapped, sung, and spoken primarily in Cantonese, occasionally Vietnamese, and sometimes in English. Palmistry's soundscapes regularly forgo beats and basslines altogether. In Vinh, he’s found an ideal foil for a distilled production style that occasionally hints at his dancehall roots but more commonly feel like abbreviated hymns, allowing Triad's softly delivered verses to float like new forms of prayer over cinematic synth washes, choral samples, and intervals of silence. The songs possess a conversational quality where menace finds common ground with melancholy. It’s all strangely moving.

An early photo of Palmistry (left) with Triad God in London
An early photo of Palmistry (left) with Triad God in London


“I moved to London after giving up gambling in 2007 to pursue music and learn music production. In 2011, I started hanging out in casinos in and around Chinatown while looking for a place to film a music video, [which is when I met] Vinh. After I told Vinh I was making music, he told me he wanted to be a rapper, from which I invited Vinh to my studio. Vinh and I share a love for Hong Kong, a place we’ve both never been. I find inspiration in Wong Kar Wai and Christopher Doyle and Vinh in Andy Lau’s Young and Dangerous films. We started recording music, working on an EP called “Aym G 4 Life” (“my boys for life”) in between watching Young and Dangerous films and hanging out and filming in Chinatown’s casinos. We formed a strong friendship, and Triad God was formed.”

The transcultural nature of Triad God -- of his identity through his work -- resonates within a general pop cultural context, but there's something to be said about this music within the contexts of language and communication, too. Technological developments affect cultural trends on a global scale, and the world of Triad God offers a zoomed-in perspective of the globalized world we're living in and making. What it means that a London-born MC of mixed Chinese and Vietnamese heritage raps in accented Cantonese and uses slang found in Triad films from 1990s Hong Kong isn't easily defined, especially when you consider that a large percentage of his fanbase has assuredly little to no idea what Triad God is talking about in his songs. But the music feels real and singular. With art like this, it is easy to get lost in the aesthetics of things and overlook the layers of meaning gleaned from a dip below the surface, where there is much more to be determined. Is it too much of a stretch to find parallels in the evolving world of multi-script type design?

"黑社會" means "triad", but also "underground" and "gangster". Earth Hanzi concept drawn by Calvin Kwok.

Instead of sending us a Track list, Triad God sent us a poem, which can be heard around the 8:45 mark of the mix:

Sometimes you don’t have the power to be awake,
There’s people like dying yeh, they pray to their god, their god don’t help them,
They pray to their heaven, pray to hell & still don’t help them,
I prayed for god, he don’t help me, I was dying, I asked the Tian, I asked the Dai, no one helped me, no one’s good in this world, if there’s god ye and they got like power they all turn bad.
Mb you don’t wanna die ye but you don’t have the power to be awake