Van Singing - Hat Chau Van
In many ways the Vietnamese are both religious and patriotic. Compared
to other categories, cult music was not widely developed. The most
significant cult song type is Hat Chau Van. This is a kind of incantation
music (although it was classified as ritual music), but its purpose
was to hypnotize the person who was estranged from the spirits through
musical airs, rhythms and lyrics.
Chau Van combines trance singing and dancing, a religious form
of art used for extolling the merits of beneficent deities or
deified national heroes. Its music and poetry are mingled with
a variety of rhythms, pauses, tempos, stresses and pitches.
is in essence a cantillation where the tunes and rhythm depend
on the contents of the sung text and may be linked together
into a suite, used in relation to a mythical happening, with
hints at some features of modern life.
art of Hat Chau Van originated in the Red River delta and dates
back to the 16th century, spreading later to the whole of the country.
During its development course, Hat Chau Van has taken in the essential
beauty of folk songs from regions in the north, the centre and the
south. In North and Central Vietnam it was called Hat Chau Van,
whereas in the South it was also called Roi Bóng.
Duyen Singing - Hat Giao Duyen
(calls) are classified into two categories: calls during work
and calls during rest. Work calls were usually transformed into
love songs. Thus, after the word ho we always see the
words giao duyen (dual love). Nevertheless, because ho
are songs inspired by daily work, ho giao duyen
still keeps the characteristics of work calls, reinforcing and
entertaining. Facing the needs of a song type as a means to
express personal affections, the actual hat giao duyen
(dual love songs) was born.
In the North, hat giao duyen do not especially serve
the rhythm of the work.
Meeting here like this before any courtship
I want to know: are you married?
as expressed through hat giao duyen, was very simple and
as gentle as its tune:
Sit down here, break a branch and draw on the ground,
Take off the scarf, promise a marriage.
giao duyen in the North were called Ly giao duyen in
Central Vietnam and Ly giao duong in the South. In Central
Vietnam, ly means villager's song compared to the music of
Hue which was the production of nobles (imperial family, mandarins,
etc.). All folk songs in Central Vietnam and in the South are either
ho or ly. Ly is developed from children songs
to songs for fun, popular theater songs, ritual songs, music of
Hue, traditional and reformed theater music. Ly songs were
named after the content of the song or the first few words of the
lyrics. The following song was sung in the pentatonic scale nam,
nuance ai (RE nearly flat, FA vibrato, LA nearly flat) and was named
"Ly vong phu" (Waiting for husband):
Spring wind blows, my eyes fill with tears,
I feel empty when I think of you,
Summer wind blows, cicadas call crickets,
Waiting for you, the days decline, the moon fades,
Autumn wind blows, I lull you, my child,
Where does your father dawdle?
Winter wind blows, resting here alone,
Missing you, I feel deep pain.
turns from a self-evolved love song to a declaration to the love
On the Milky Way a cloud sadly flows,
In a moment the sky and the sea will separate us,
Don't forget what I tell you:
This short life is just like the light breeze,
One step from you, my heart hurts much,
Remember what I tell you, don't forget....
Ho Singing - Hat Quan Ho
Hat Quan Ho started about the 13th century in the Bac Ninh
province and was always heard during spring festivals, especially
of the Buddhists. Bac Ninh is the province where numerous pagodas
were built, therefore, big Buddhist offering ceremonies were celebrated
each year in spring. Boys and girls came to adore Buddha and after
that, gathered together in front of or inside the pagoda or in the
field to sing "Hat Quan Ho".
Originally Hat Quan Ho were exchange songs between two mandarins'
families. Gradually, it spread out and became popular among the
northern people. Groups were formed just for singing, and many marriages
were formed at these get-togethers. After centuries, Hat Quan
Ho became the most significant Vietnamese folk-song type.
Quan Ho, also called Quan Ho Bac Ninh singing, is
an antiphonal singing tradition in which men and women take
turns singing in a challenge-and-response fashion drawing on
a known repertoire of melodies. Usually a pair of women starts,
presenting in unison a complete song called cau ra (challenge
phrase") lasting three to eight minutes. A pair of men
of the opposing team responds with another song called cau
doi ("matching phrase"), which must match the
melody of the women's song in order to be considered correct.
Next it will be the men's turn to challenge the women with a
song that can be completely different from the previous pair
to the tradition, only young people used to sing quan ho
songs, as the major body of song texts centers on the subject
of love and sentimental desire among young adults. Nowadays,
elderly singers are quite enthusiastic about singing for guests.
tunes in Quan Ho Singing is rich in tunes and rhythms because
it received all the influences of both lullabies and poem recitation.
There are four major airs in Hat Quan Ho
1. Giong song (transistor air)
2. Giong vat (diverse air)
3. Giong ham (recitative air)
4. Giong bi (tunes borrowed from other sources)
The most popular Quan Ho songs, "Qua Cau Gio Bay", "Treo
Len Quan Doc" (also known as "Ly Cay Ða"), "Se
Chi Luan Kim", were sung in Giong vat. The singers also imitated
the musical sound, the sound of rice grinding, crying, etc. When
one of the two singing groups used any specific tune, the other
one was to reply in the same tune. The singing ends with songs in
the farewell category, a feature that has never been changed giving
the singing session a sense of completion.
Following the textual content of quan ho songs within the
festival reveals a striking contrast between the open, public setting
and the intimate characteristic of the songs. Virtually all songs
heard in festivals express personal subjects such as unfulfilled
love, expectation, longing, and intimacy.
Quan Ho songs are unique in the sense that they place men and women
on an equal basis, with mutual respect in spite of good-natured
teasing, and place a high value on genuine feelings -not money.
The songs address the joy of nature and the satisfaction of hard
field work when the labour is shared or lightened by singing together.
One of the Quan Ho characteristics that have endured through time
is the proper verbal and poetic introduction to each and every tune.
Quan ho singers are not only appreciated for their singing ability,
but also for their skill in leaving an impression of their gracefulness
and literary adeptness on the audience. Usually one of the singers
will say something to praise the opposing pair and express how fortunate
her/his pair has been to be allowed to sing with them, before she/he
goes on to recite the verses of the song. The poetic introduction
also provides listeners with the basic content of the song text,
which otherwise can be difficult to follow in singing. Not only
that, the rhetoric used in the introduction is so polished that
it gives the impression of a theatrical act. As a result, singers
often try to imitate the speech tonality and pronunciation of official
media announcers, even though quan ho researchers have asserted
that speeches in the quan ho region vary from one village to another.
Hat Quan Ho were spring festival songs. The farmers left
their farming for a while to enjoy the beautiful weather, especially
during the New Year (Tet).
- Hat Ru
Hat Ru (Lullabies) are a sort of folk music often heard in
Vietnam, especially in the countryside. Ru, certainly, are
songs to lull babies, but Vietnamese women use them to consign their
fates and also to express human feelings such as homesickness, wife
missing her husband, etc. As the function of a lullaby song is to
make the child slowly fall into sleep, the song is quiet, the tones
stretched and melodious.
The melodies of Ru vary from one region to another. Ru are
original or modified six-and-eight foot/line popular poems put to
music. The rhythm is determined by the meter of the poem, but the
lines are elongated with nonsense syllables à oi, ù
o, à á o, à oi oi.
In North Vietnam, Ru are sung in a straight pentatonic scale DO-RE-FA-SOL-LA.
The following songs are lullaby songs sung by a mother to her child.
My child, sleep well,
So mom can carry water to wash the elephant's back,
If anyone wants to see, go up the mountain
To see Mesdames Trung, Tri?u riding the elephant's golden
the six-and-eight foot/line poems with nonsense syllables o o inserted,
the following song is from Nghe Tinh (Central Vietnam). It lies
only in three notes LA-RE-FA:
Lullaby sleep well,
So mother can go to the market and buy an earthen saucepan,
If she goes to the southern market,
She will buy you a long and bent sugar cane,
Or if she goes to the northern market,
She will buy you a bent and long sugar cane.
Southern Vietnam almost all lullabies begin with the words vi
Imagine walking on a board-bridge fastened with nails,
It is hard as walking on an unstable bamboo bridge.
is one form of theatrical music, a unique artistic product
of the Viet people in the North and Central North of Vietnam.
Derived from artistic game, Cheo stage is an original synthesis
of folk songs, dances, and narration, full of comedy, tragedy,
fact and stylization. The Cheo orchestra becomes outstanding
with the leading role of percussion set, especially de drum,
and the accompaniment of instruments like nhi, ho, tieu (vertical
bamboo flute), and flute. Each Cheo melody is as complete
and independent as a song. Cheo melody usually links to a
specific character. The words of the play are imbued with
the lyricism of folk songs, proverbs, and popular sayings.
cheo play could be put on stage in a large theatre, but it could
also be performed successfully on one or two bed mats spread in
the middle of a communal house with a cast of only three: a hero,
a heroine and a clown.
sound of the cheo drum has a magical power and upon hearing it,
villagers cannot resist coming to see the play. The clown in a cheo
play seems to be a supporting role, but actually he or she is very
important to the performance. The clowns present a comic portrayal
of social life, with ridiculous, satirical words and gestures, they
reduce the audience to tears of laughter.
Tuong, also called hat boi in the south, is a stage performance
that came about during the Ly-Tran dynasty and that became very
popular nationwide during the following centuries. During the Nguyen
dynasty, 19th century, tuong was occupying a good position in the
cultural lives of the royals.
stage has a very concise symbolization. Only with some actors
on the stage, the whole scene of the court with all the officials
who are attending royal ceremonies could be seen, or two generals
with some soldiers fighting also show a battle with hundreds
of thousands of troops and horses fighting fiercely, and even
a gourd of wine and four wooden cups also express a lowest banquet.
It is a mistake to deal with Tuong without mentioning the art
of making up. It is because just looking at a made-up face,
we may guess the personality and social class of that character.
For example, a canthsus drawn toward one's ears show that he
is a great gentleman and hero. As for beards, a black, curly
beard is for a fierce man, three-tuft beard for a gentleman;
a dragon's beard for Kings and mandarins and for majesty; a
mouse's whisker, a goat's beard and a fox's whisker for cunning
and dishonest men. Beardless man must be students.
tuong, space and time are captured by songs, dancing, and simple
music. In the past, tuong did not require any elaborate stage accessories;
nowadays, backdrop and make-up in tuong performances are more elaborate
Luong (renovated opera)
Luong (Renovated Opera) appeared in the year tenth of the twentieth
century. It was first officially performed abroad under the form
of a modern opera in 19931 and then developed as a theater for amateurs.
Luong first appeared under the form of chamber music. Later
on, one part of it was shifted into a kind of gesture performance
(with different ways of speaking, declaiming, singing) and
could be seen as a gestured form of singing. This new form
was thus a renovated form of chamber music, and was called
Cai Luong (Renovated Opera).
The Cai luong performance includes dances, songs, and music;
the music originally drew its influences from southern folk
music. Since then, the music of Cai luong has been enriched
with hundreds of new tunes. A Cai luong orchestra consists
mainly of guitars with concave frets, and danakim.
the years, Cai luong has experienced a number of changes to become
a type of stage performance highly appreciated by the Vietnamese
people as well as foreign visitors.