Vietnamese traditional music

"Lady playing music"  by Be Ky

Vietnamese music has had a rather long history. Since ancient times, the Vietnamese have had a strong inclination for music. Music is considered to be an essential need; therefore, numerous musical instruments and genres intended for various purposes have been developed. Vietnamese people use music to express their innermost feelings, to encourage themselves while working and fighting, to educate their children in good traditions and national sentiment, to communicate with the invisible, and to sublimate their aspirations for a happy life.

Vietnamese traditional music is diverse due to the various genres that took shape during different periods of history. But tradition is not static or set, but evolves with time. Moreover, the aesthetic principle of vietnamese music, the essence of which lies in four words "chan, phuong, hoa, la" (literally: true, straight, flowers, leaves), advises the player to study a melody or basic piece in its original "true and straight" form, without any embellishment. In performance, the player has to add "flowers and leaves", embelleshing the melodic outline, varying the rythmic design and presenting it like a bouquet. Of course, one cannot add just anything to the basic melody. A classical piece cannot be performed in any way. The music's character implies a certain rigour in observing the điệu (modes).

There are several folk song traditions in Vietnam that express the strongly marked cultural differences among regions of the country and the preferences of rural people to live in the villages of their ancestors. There are also specific kinds of songs, such as wishing songs, card game songs, and stories. They are sung at seasonal festivals, at work, and at parties. A typical performance begins with greeting songs, is followed by the main song repertoire, and ends with farewell songs. Children’s songs usually involve a game or teaching activity. Many school lessons use singing to help teach students the Vietnamese language.
Numerous forms of songs and music have been preserved to form a rich musical treasure. They include lullabies, children’s songs, ritual songs, festivity songs, various work songs, courtship songs, riddle songs, melodies, and poem narration. The simple and primitive instruments, as well as the more sophisticated ones, have also been created and retained.


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