Some features of traditional music in Vietnam

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Traditional Vietnamese music
Traditional Vietnamese music

Traditional music in Vietnam

Traditional Vietnamese music or folk music came into existence quite early. In the ancient period, Vietnamese residents had the passionate eagerness for music and considered music to be an indispensable part in their daily life. For this reason, during the development process, the residents continually created music instruments and produced various types of music that contain feelings and sentiments of human. Music plays a role as the spiritual medicine helping people take more energy for working and escaping from stresses and strains in the daily life.

Southern folk music
Southern folk music

In reality, there are a lot of types of music in Vietnam. We will get the opportunity to enjoy lullabies, children’s folk songs and many other kinds of music in some special occasions such as funeral and ceremony. In addition, coming to some regions, we will witness a unique form of music where a group of male and female singers showing musical responses.

Traditional music in Vietnam becomes diverse because of the combination of numerous types of music originating from different periods of time and ethnic diversity. Particularly, with the same category of music, each ethnic group performs it in their own way by distinctive rhythm and melody. For example, if listening to a lullaby, you can easily realize considerable differences of Thai, Yao, Muong and Kinh lullaby. Some groups use the sound of singing to lull the child to sleep while other ones use the sound of musical instruments such as flute.

Vietnam has 54 ethnic groups and 54 different colors of music as well. This article will introduce the traditional music of Kinh people.  There are quite a few ways to classify Kinh’s music.

Categorization of traditional music in Vietnam

In terms of types of music, we have nhã nhạc cung đình (Royal Court music), chèo, tuồng, xẩm, đờn ca tài tử and ca trù, also know as hát ả đào or hát nói.

Hát Xẩm
Hát Xẩm

On the other hand, in case the Vietnamese music is categorized according to region, we have Southern, Central, Highland and traditional Northern music. For more detailed, the music can be classified into various cultural regions.

Regarding forms of signing, there are several following forms including solo, duet and collective singing. The way of music classification is based on purposes and criteria.  

For the traditional music, to support singing, people use a wide variety of instruments such as đàn bầu (monochord), đàn nhị ( a Vietnamese bowed string instrument with two strings), đàn kìm or đàn nguyệt (a two-stringed traditional Vietnamese musical instrument). Some of them are just used for one specific kind of music. Meanwhile, some other musical instruments are designed to support various types of music. For instance, the Đàn đáy (a Vietnamese plucked lute with three strings), the phách (small wooden sticks beaten on a small bamboo platform) and trống chầu or trống đế (praise drum) are almost used in Ca Tru performance and đàn nhị is designed for hát Xẩm.

Ca trù
Ca trù