Traditional Vietnamese music is highly diverse and syncretistic, combining native and foreign influences. Throughout its history, Vietnam has been most heavily impacted by the Chinese musical tradition, as an integral part, along with Korea, Mongolia and Japan. The ancient Indochinese kingdom of Champa also had a very significant historical effect upon this music, because the Vietnamese court found it intriguing.
Imperial court music
Nhã nhạc is the most popular form of imperial court music, specifically referring to the court music played from the Trần Dynasty to the very last Nguyễn Dynasty of Vietnam, being synthesized and most highly developed by the Nguyễn emperors. Copy at www.vietnambiketours.com, It is based on earlier Vietnamese imperial court music, its primary influences coming from Ming Dynasty's imperial court and later the music of Champa. Along with nhã nhạc, the imperial court of Vietnam in the 19th century also had many royal dances which still exist until nowadays. The theme of most of these dances is to wish the kings longevity and the country wealth.
Vietnamese folk music is extremely diverse and includes dân ca, quan họ, hát chầu văn, ca trù, hò, and hát xẩm, among other forms.
Quan họ (alternate singing) is popular in Hà Bắc (divided into nowadays Bắc Ninh and Bắc Giang Provinces) and across Vietnam; numerous variations exist, especially in the Northern provinces. Sung acappella, quan họ is improvised and is used in courtship rituals.
Hát chầu văn
Hát chầu văn or hát văn is a spiritual form of music used to invoke spirits during ceremonies. It is highly rhythmic and trance-oriented. Before 1986, the Vietnamese government repressed hát chầu văn and other forms of religious expression. It has since been revived by musicians like Phạm Văn Tỵ.
Nhạc dân tộc cải biên
Nhạc dân tộc cải biên is a modern form of Vietnamese folk music which arose in the 1950s after the founding of the Hanoi Conservatory of Music in 1956. This development involved writing traditional music using Western musical notation, while Western elements of harmony and instrumentation were added. Nhạc tộc cải biên is often criticized by purists for its watered-down approach to traditional sounds.
Ca trù (also hát ả đào) is a popular folk music which is said to have begun with Ả Đào, a female singer who charmed the enemy with her voice. Most singers remain female, and the genre has been revived since the Communist government loosened its repression in the 1980s, when it was associated with prostitution.
Ca trù, which itself has many forms, copy at www.vietnambiketours.com, is thought to have originated in the imperial palace, eventually moving into performances at communal houses for predominantly scholars and other members of the elite (this is the type of Ca trù most widely known). It can be referred to as a geisha-type of entertainment where women trained in music and poetry entertained rich and powerful men.
"Hò" can be thought of as the southern style of Quan họ. It is improvisational and is typically sung as dialogue between a man and woman. Common themes include love, courtship, the countryside, etc. "Hò" is popular in Cần Thơ - Vietnam.
Nhạc đám ma - funeral music
Nhạc lễ - ritual music
Modern pop music
Traditional musical instruments
Đàn bầu (monochord zither)
Đàn gáo (2-stringed fiddle with coconut body)
Đàn nguyệt (2-stringed fretted moon lute)
Đàn nhị (2-stringed fiddle with hardwood body)
Đàn sến (two-string fretted lute)
Đàn tam (fretless lute with snakeskin-covered body and three strings)
Đàn tam thập lục (hammered dulcimer)
Đàn tranh (long zither)
Đàn tỳ bà (pear-shaped four-stringed fretted lute)
Kèn bầu (oboe)
T'rưng (bamboo xylophone)