Đàn nhị, a simple instrument that can achieve miracles
The Dan Nhi is popular among several ethnic groups
in Vietnam. It is also refered to as Dan Co in southern provinces
of Viet Nam.
The Dan Nhi is somewhat a sort of vertical violin with two strings,
held in front of the player like a small cello and played with a
bow. In the past, Dan Nhi strings were made from silk, but today
Dan Nhi crafts folk prefer metal. The frets on the neck are made
from horse-tail hair, and the body is covered with snake skin. The
bow is made of bamboo or wood and fitted with horsehair. The hair
goes through the space between the strings.
According to archaeological documents found out in Van Phuc pagoda
(Phat Tich - Thanh Son - Ha Bac), an orchestra was carved on a pedestal
used as a pillar of the pagoda with musical instruments coming from
India and China.
The orchestra consisted of 10 instrumentalists wearing costumes
like the Cham ethnic group and playing the musical instruments,
one of which was similar to cello with two strings (Dan Ho), which
was the former form of the current two-stringed fiddle. From such
evidences, it is predicted that two-stringed fiddle Nhi entered
Vietnam through the Cham ethnic group or China depending on different
periods and places. (According to music history by Professor Tran
Van Khe and Van Thong).
Two-stringed fiddle Nhi is made of rosewood. The resonator is called
bat nhi. Bat nhi has hollow tubular-shape, 13.8cm in length. One
end of resonator is covered with python skin or iguana skin. The
neck is round and has no fret. The lower end of the neck goes through
resonator, the upper end is called Thu dan (the head of the instrument).
Thu dan is stork-head shape which is attached to two round-wood
pegs to tune a string. Sometimes they are carved sophisticatedly.
The bridge of Nhi is made of bamboo or wood, 1cm in length and located
in the middle of the surface of resonator’s covered end. Khuyet
dan (gauge of Nhi) or Cu dan is a silk pulling two strings towards
the part of neck below the tuning pegs. Gauge is used to tune the
pitches of sounds. When the gauge is pulled downward, the length
of strings producing sounds will be shortened, consequently it produces
high pitches. And vice verse, when the gauge is pushed upward, the
length of strings producing sounds will be lengthened and eventually
it provides bass sounds.
The bow of Nhi is made of bamboo or wood and has arch-shape. The
bow is put between the two strings of the instrument. When the bow
touches the string, the sound will be produced. Nhi has two silk
strings but recently it is replaced by metal string. It is tuned
at a perfect fifth. For example, in Bac piece (with joyful nuance),
two strings are at G1-D2, in Nam piece (sad nuance) at F1-C2; in
music of popular opera Cheo at C1-G1...
Nhi takes part in orchestras, such as Nha nhac, Bat am (orchestra
of eight traditional musical instruments), Tai tu band, Chau van,
orchestra for Tuong stage, Cheo...
The sound of the Dan Nhi is said to imitate that of a singer. It
can be played in either short staccato notes or longer chords and
can be played slow or fast to suit any composition.
Cho Mua Xuan" (ca. 80kb)
extracted from "Instrumental
back to top