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Vietnam Art Performance

01:05:12 14/12/2014

Vietnamese art has a long and rich history which is always retain many distinctively Vietnamese characteristics. Vietnam's traditional music has played an important role in the local life that expresses the innermost feelings, encourage, communicate and educate people for a happy and better life. It includes Tuong singing, Then singing, Cai Luong, Chau Van, Cheo, etc. especially the Ca Tru singing, Quan Ho, Tay Nguyen Gong Music, Xoan singing and Hue's royal court music was officially proclaimed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO.

Ca Tru Singing

Ca Tru Performance

"Ca tru" singing is an old form of singing in the North of Vietnam that originated and flourished in around 15th century. In different regions, "ca tru" singing has different names such as "A dao" singing, "co dau" singing, "nha tro" singing, etc. "Ca tru" singing itself originally used to be a form of entertainment for royal court, wealthy people and scholars in feudal era. 

That form of performance is a fantastic blend of poems, singing and traditional instruments (including castanets, “dan day” and “chau” drum). Castanets (so-called “phach” in Vietnamese) are a couple of small wooden sticks and a piece of bamboo to beat the sticks on. “Dan day” is a unique traditional instrument of Vietnam. Its structure is quite similar to guitar, but has 3 strings and wooden trapezoidal body. “Chau” drum has an ordinary appearance. But the special feature of “chau” drum is drumstick because the instrumentalist uses only one drumstick to play that drum. A band of “ca tru” singing consists of three people: a female vocalist (normally called “dao” or “ca nuong” in Vietnamese), a male instrumentalist (“kep”) and a male musician (called “quan vien” in Vietnamese). The singer sings the song of the musician and plays castanets at for the beat. The instrumentalist assists her by playing “dan day”. The musician (usually the composer of the song performed) also sits together and beat “chau” drum to express his feeling to the performance. If he beats “chau” drum once, it means “praise”. If he beats the drum twice, this act means “disapproval”. Three of them wear Vietnamese traditional “ao dai” during the performance. Since 20th century, “ca tru” singing has been at risk of disappearance. On October 1st, 2009, “ca tru” singing was officially recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. At present, there are 63 “ca tru” singing clubs in 14 provinces (or cities) in Vietnam. Please contact Mercury Travel for tickets to Ca Tru Music Performance Show at: support@mercurytravel.com.vn 

Hue's Royal Court Music

Hue's royal court music

Hue's royal court music is called "Nha Nhac Cung Dinh" (Royal court's refined music) in Vietnamese. It's an old form of art performance that used to official music of royal court for centuries. For a long history of existence, Hue's royal court music has become an essential part of Hue Imperial City as well as Vietnamese culture in general.

Hue’s royal court music originated in the reign of Ly Dynasty (1010 -1225) and rapidly developed under Le Dynasty (1427 -1778). At that time, that form of music had fully developed and become official music of the royal court. However, at the end of Le Dynasty, royal court music fell into recession. Till Nguyen Dynasty (1802 – 1945), the Kings brought that kind of music back to its official position. Royal court music had been in golden age and named after the ancient capital city of Nguyen Dynasty: Hue’s royal court music. By 20th century, as the collapse of Nguyen Dynasty and Vietnam War, Hue’s royal court music gradually lost its popularity and was even seriously threatened to the survival.Feature of Hue’s royal court music Hue’s royal court music involves two subtypes: “Dai Nhac” and “Tieu Nhac”. “Dai Nhac” played an important role in religious liturgies (like Nam Giao Offering Ritual, Xa Tac Offering Ritual), coronations, funerals, etc. That subtype is featured with a large-scale orchestra of about 40 kinds of drums, wind and string instruments. “Tieu Nhac” has smaller scale and is usually performed in anniversaries, official receptions, royal parties, etc. Musicians in a band of Hue’s royal court music can be males or females. While performing, they have to wear traditional costumes (“ao dai” and “khan xep”) and pay a high concentration on their performance. Hue’s royal court music is a unique form of art performance that receives high appreciation as its artistic and historical values. In November 2003, Hue’s royal court music was officially proclaimed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Vietnam's Water Puppetry

Vietnam's water puppetry

Vietnam's water puppetry (so-called "Mua Roi Nuoc" in Vietnamese) is an old form of puppetry that originated from wet rice civilization in the Red River Delta in Northern Vietnam during Ly Dynasty (1010 - 1225). Over centuries of forming and developing, water puppetry has become typical form of art performance in the North.

Puppets used in water puppetry are made from a special kind of wood named “sung”. This kind of wood is featured with light weight and flexibility that makes it easy to control. Logs are sophisticatedly carved to have different blocks. Then, those blocks will be connected in a system and painted by many colors. Finally, living puppets are completed and ready for the performance. On the stage of water puppetry, there is a famous and outstanding character named “Teu”. The puppet called “Teu” usually has a plump body and lovely face. “Teu” is a little boy that plays the role of narrator and joker, as well as represents the masses. “Teu” has the love of many generations of Vietnamese people and has become a symbol of water puppetry. The unique feature of Vietnam’s water puppetry is its stage. Differ from other kinds of puppetry in the world that perform on ground stage, Vietnam’s water puppetry is performed on water stage. Water stages are usually built on small pool, and resemble a temple with a split-bamboo screen. Puppeteers stand all behind the screen and control puppets performing a play or a dance through a long string mechanism under water surface. To do this work, puppeteers have to stand in cold water for hours. To assist puppeteers in puppetry performance, there is an orchestra which plays traditional instruments such as vocals, drums, wooden bells, cymbals, horns, erhu (Chinese two-stringed fiddle), and bamboo flutes. Exciting background music combined with amazing stage of living puppets and colorful flags bring audience a bustling ambiance of traditional festival in the country. Vietnam’s water puppetry is a notable form of art performance in Vietnam and has been widely introduced to international community. It now is nominated to be a UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Cheo Singing

Hat Cheo

"Cheo" is a traditional form as well as a typical representative of Vietnamese opera beside "Tuong" and "Cai Luong". "Cheo" is a form of art performance that is very popular in the North of Vietnam, especially provinces of the Red River Delta.

“Cheo” originated in Hoa Lu ancient capital (Ninh Binh Province now) under Dinh Dynastry (around 10th century). Till 15th century, King Le Thanh Tong allowed “cheo” performance in the royal palace. That form of art performance had rapidly developed and flourished in 19th century. There are many famous “cheo” plays which made deeply impression to several generations of audiences like “Quan Am Thi Kinh”, “Luu Binh - Duong Le”, “Truong Vien”, “Kim Nham”, etc. Since 20th century, scripts of “cheo” plays have been modernized with the content about contemporary life.“Cheo” is wonderful combination of dance and singing in the form of music theatre. The actors and actresses will use both dance and singing to tell the story of the play. They have different costumes, make-up, langue and behaviors which are typical for different characters. However, all characters are familiar with the real life in order to present a picture of real life on stage.To assist the actors and actresses, an orchestra will sit under the stage and play traditional instruments for the beat along the play. There are many instruments used such as “dan nguyet”, “dan nhi”, drums, “dan tam thap luc”, flutes, etc.Differ from other kinds of music theatre in Vietnam, “cheo” rooted in ordinary daily life of Vietnamese peasants in the Red River Delta. Thus, “cheo” reflects the authentic values of Vietnamese people’s lives: cultivation, traditional festivals, love, relationship between family’s members, etc. “Cheo” is usually performed on special occasions of Lunar New Year, traditional festivals and while the harvests ended. It has become an essential part of communal events as well as Vietnamese culture.

Then Singing

"Then" singing is a traditional kind of oratorio art in Vietnam. That form of art performance originated form religious activities of Tai, Tay and Nung ethnic groups in Northern Vietnam. The name "Then" is a word in the language of Tay ethnic group and means "god" in English. That name comes from religious liturgies of ethnic people to worship the god and pray for their life. 

“Then” singing can be found in 5 mountainous provinces in the North of Vietnam: Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Ha Giang, Lang Son, and Tuyen Quang Province. Some documents indicated that “then” singing’s origin is from Mac Dynasty (in 16th century). “Then” singing is combination of singing, music and dance. It’s usually performed by a group of vocalists who can be males or females. They sing “then” melodies at traditional liturgies of celebrating a new house, weddings, longevity parties, Long Tong Festival, etc; as well as religious rites of praying for health, harvest, funerals, etc. An indispensible instrument of “then” singing is “dan tinh”, so-called “tinh tau” in Vietnamese (gourd lute). “Tinh tau” originated from the language of Tay ethnic minority. In that language, “tinh” means “stringed musical instrument” and “tau” means “gourd”. “Tinh tau” has the body made from “gourd” and a long fret board. The strings are made of silk, nylon or fishing wire. There are two type of “tinh tau”: 2-string “tinh tau” and 3-string one. Two-string “tinh tau” is usually used as accompaniment instrument for dance and singing; three-string one is for religious rites mentioned above. Since June 2012, “then” singing has been on process of nomination to be a UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. If you travel to Ba Be National Park in our tours, you will have opportunity to watch this traditional performance and join the performance with locals. Please contact our support team for further information: support@mercurytravel.com.vn

Quan Ho Singing

"Quan Ho" singing is a typical form of Vietnamese folk music that originated in Bac Ninh Province, Vietnam. Over 300 years of existence, that form of art performance has become an essential part of Vietnamese culture and a pride of Vietnamese as well.

“Quan Ho” singing is usually performed by couples of male and female vocalists. Female singers (called “lien chi” in Vietnamese) are beautiful in “ao tu than” (four-panel traditional dress) and “non quai thao” (“quai thao” hat, so-called “non ba tam”). Male singers (called “lien anh” in Vietnamese) are elegant in “ao the” and “khan xep”. They sing love duets together in pair of one male and one female. Each year, on the occasion of Lim Festival (opening annually on around 12th -13th day of the first lunar month in the year), male and female vocalists of Kinh Bac region (former name of Bac Ninh Province) gather and perform gentle melody of folk songs. Besides, “quan ho” singing is also performed in many other traditional festivals, special events and weddings. On September 30th, 2009, at the 4th session of the Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection, “quan ho” singing was officially titled as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of human being.

Tay Nguyen Gong Music

Tay Nguyen Gong music is a form of art performance that originated in Tay Nguyen region (Central Highlands) of Vietnam and very popular in communal activities of ethnic groups there (namely Gia Rai, Ede Kpah, Ba Na, Xo Dang, Brau, Co Ho, etc.). Gong is a special kind of musical instrument which made of brass alloy or a mixture of brass and gold, silver, bronze. 

Gong is also considered as a valuable property in a family; and the size and age of a gong is decisive factor that a person is rich or not. The bigger and older gong is, richer a person is. The sound of gongs is said to be the way to communicate with the god or deities. Therefore, gong is a holy instrument in culture of ethnic groups in Tay Nguyen. There are two theories about the origin of Gong: one said that gong originated from Dong Son Culture as its similar features with Dong Son’s Bronze Drum. The second said gong originally was made of stone. When people knew how to use bronze tools, metal gong appeared. Gongs are usually played by men, but for few ethnic groups (like E De Bih) they are played by women only. People playing gongs wear colorful traditional costumes of their ethnic groups. Gong music is only performed in special events and festivals such as Gong Festival, Elephant Race Festival (in Buon Don, Dak Lak Province), Tay Nguyen Spring Festival, etc. Tay Nguyen Gong Music is a unique kind of music that has religious and artist values. It also represents time-honored culture and communal spirit of local ethnic groups. The space of gong culture in Central Highlandswas recognized by UNESCO as an oral-transmitted masterpiece and intangible cultural heritage of the humanity in 2005.