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Vietnamese music: Explore the diverse soundscape throughout the time

26/01/2024 7.458

From bustling cities to the serene countryside, Vietnamese music continues to resonate with its people, forging a powerful bond that transcends generations.

Vietnam music

Nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia, Vietnam's cultural tapestry is woven with a diverse array of customs, traditions, and art forms. Among its most captivating threads is the rich and storied Vietnamese music. From the enchanting melodies of ancient folk tunes to the pulsating beats of contemporary pop, the country's musical journey reflects the ebb and flow of time, encompassing a harmonious blend of tradition and innovation.

1. An overview of the history of Vietnamese music

The history of Vietnamese music is a tapestry of diverse influences that spans thousands of years. Rooted in ancient traditions and shaped by historical events, Vietnamese music has evolved through various dynasties, foreign invasions, and social transformations, resulting in a unique and captivating soundscape.

Vietnam's musical heritage can be traced back to its earliest inhabitants, with evidence of primitive musical instruments dating back to prehistoric times. Indigenous tribes and ancient communities used music as a vital element in rituals, ceremonies, and storytelling. 

During the Chinese domination of Vietnam, particularly under the Han and Tang dynasties, Confucianism and Chinese culture had a profound impact on Vietnamese music. Musical ensembles, inspired by Chinese traditions, were introduced into the Vietnamese court and society. This era marked the beginnings of classical Vietnamese music, which was closely tied to Confucian rituals and courtly affairs.

The Le and Nguyen dynasties (15th - 19th centuries) witnessed the flourishing of Vietnamese court music, also known as "Nhã Nhạc" or "Hue Royal Court Music". As a highly sophisticated art form, Hue Royal Court Music encompassed ceremonial music and courtly dance. Exclusively for the royal court, it reflected the elegance and refinement of the Vietnamese aristocracy.

While court music held its prominence, the folk music of Vietnam continued to thrive among the common people. Regional folk songs and musical forms varied from the Northern Highlands to the Mekong Delta, each carrying unique cultural characteristics. Themes of love, labor, nature, and daily life found expression in these heartfelt melodies.

Vietnam music

Following 1975, Vietnamese music began to draw inspiration from diverse styles worldwide. With the country opening up in the late 1980s, Vietnamese music embraced global trends, incorporating various styles and genres previously unseen.

Additionally, numerous overseas artists significantly contributed to the development of modern Vietnamese music. Today, Vietnamese music comprises a wide range of influences from Asian, European, American, and African cultures, thanks to the increased collaboration between local artists and musicians worldwide. 

Throughout its long and diverse history, Vietnamese music remains a source of pride and cultural identity, bridging the past with the present and pointing toward a future that continues to celebrate the nation's rich musical legacy.

>>> Read more: History of Vietnam: A comprehensive look at the country through the ages

2. Which are some traditional Vietnamese music genres?

Vietnamese music is enriched with a diverse array of traditional music genres that reflect the country's rich cultural heritage and regional diversity. These genres have been passed down through generations and hold deep significance in the life of Vietnamese people. 

2.1. Cai luong

Cai luong is a traditional Vietnamese music genre originating from South Vietnam, known for its vibrant theatrical performances. The genre combines elements of traditional folk music, classical music, and modern influences. It often features themes of love, family, and social issues. Traditional musical instruments used in cai luong performances include dan nguyet (moon lute) and dan tranh (zither).

Vietnam music

2.2. Don ca tai tu

Don ca tai tu is a popular Vietnamese music genre native to the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. It features soulful and improvisational singing accompanied by traditional instruments such as zither, dan nhi (two-stringed fiddle), and dan bau (monochord). Don ca tai tu often depicts the beauty of the southern countryside and evokes the sentiments of the local people.

2.3. Hue Royal Court Music

As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue has a distinct music genre known as Hue Royal Court Music. This highly refined and elegant art form is characterized by its meticulous orchestration and performance. Traditional instruments used in Hue Royal Court Music include zither, monochord, moon lute, and a range of percussion instruments like drums and gongs.

Vietnam music

2.4. Ho and Ly

Ho and Ly are two ancient Vietnamese music genres originating from the Red River Delta in Northern Vietnam. These genres typically involve sung poetry accompanied by traditional instruments like moon lute and zither.

2.5. Chau van

Chau van is a distinctive genre of ritual Vietnamese music, closely associated with traditional Vietnamese spiritual practices, particularly in the north. It combines elements of singing, chanting, and instrumental music, and is often performed during religious ceremonies. The primary instrument used in Chau van is the moon lute.

Vietnam music

2.6. Cheo

Cheo is a form of Vietnamese opera music that has its roots in traditional folk Vietnamese music. This genre features a mix of singing, dancing, and storytelling, often highlighting themes from Vietnamese legends and history. Accompanied instruments include the traditional moon lute, zither, and various percussion instruments.

2.7. Ca tru

Ca tru is a unique and ancient chamber Vietnamese music native to Northern Vietnam. It is characterized by its poetic and highly-stylized singing, accompanied by a trio of traditional instruments: dan day (long-necked lute), phach (small wooden clappers), and trong chau (cylindrical drum).

Vietnam music

2.8. Tuong

Tuong is a classic Vietnamese music genre that dates back to the 12th century. It involves a combination of singing, dancing, and acting, often depicting historical or legendary tales. Traditional Vietnamese musical instruments used in Tuong performances include zither, moon lute, and various percussion instruments.

2.9. Xam

Xam is a traditional folk Vietnamese music genre that originated in Northern Vietnam. It features street performances with singing accompanied by instruments like the two-stringed fiddle and zither.

2.10. Quan ho

Quan ho is a genre of traditional folk songs that originated in Bac Ninh Province, Northern Vietnam. It involves antiphonal singing between male and female singers, accompanied by instruments such as the moon lute and dan tam (three-stringed lute). Quan ho songs often celebrate love, friendship, and the beauty of nature.

Vietnam music

>>> Read more: Vietnamese language and fascinating facts about its linguistic features

3. Things to know about the modern Vietnamese music era

During the 1960s and beyond, Vietnamese music underwent a significant transformation. This period marked the rise of iconic singer-songwriters and musicians, who became powerful voices for the struggles of Vietnamese people.

Trinh Cong Son, one of the most prominent figures in modern Vietnamese music, emerged during this era and left an indelible mark on the country's musical landscape. His poetic and heartfelt compositions spoke directly to the hearts of the people, addressing themes of love and peace. His songs offered solace and understanding, becoming anthems for a generation seeking hope and healing in a time of uncertainty.

Trinh Cong Son's music was characterized by its simplicity and sincerity, often featuring minimalistic arrangements that emphasized the emotional depth of his lyrics and emotive voice. His compositions were deeply rooted in Vietnamese culture, drawing inspiration from traditional music, folk music in Vietnam, and classical poetry. At the same time, he incorporated Western folk and pop influences, creating a unique and contemporary sound that resonated with a broad audience.

Vietnam music

>>> Read more: Vietnamese people: Facts to know to have the best cultural experiences

4. What type of music is popular in Vietnam nowadays?

As of the present day, Vietnamese music remains diverse and vibrant, with a mix of mainstream hits, indie creativity, and the rise of underground music.

  • Mainstream music:

Mainstream music continues to be widely popular music in Vietnam, with a focus on genres like pop and ballad. Many Vietnamese mainstream artists have a massive following and regularly release chart-topping songs. The music videos of these mainstream hits are often featured on television and various online platforms, making them easily accessible to a broad audience.

  • Indie music:

The indie music scene in Vietnam is thriving, with an increasing number of independent Vietnamese music artists and bands gaining recognition. These musicians often experiment with various genres, including alternative, indie rock, folk, and electronic music. They prefer promoting their compositions online through platforms like SoundCloud, MixCloud, YouTube, and Bandcamp, allowing them to reach both local and global audiences.

  • Underground music:

The underground music scene in Vietnam is becoming more prominent, especially in larger cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. This scene caters to those seeking unique and experimental sounds, including various sub-genres of electronic music, experimental rock, etc. The underground community welcomes both local and foreign artists, creating a dynamic musical landscape.

Additionally, incorporating traditional elements into contemporary music has become a trend among young artists, and it is well-received by the audience. Many young musicians are exploring ways to infuse traditional Vietnamese instruments, melodies, and themes into their modern compositions. By blending the old with the new, they create a unique fusion of sounds that both preserves the country's rich cultural heritage and caters to the evolving tastes of the younger generation.

Vietnam music

Apart from music, Vietnam travel offers tourists a chance to discover the country's fascinating nature, rich culture, and warm people. Some recommended destinations where you can uncover the many wonders of Vietnam include Hanoi, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Ha Long, Da Nang, etc.

For a luxurious and comfortable stay in Vietnam, consider experiencing the excellent amenities and world-class services of Vinpearl's hotels and resorts. At Vinpearl, you can indulge in relaxing spa treatments, gourmet dining options, and luxurious accommodations with picturesque views.

Additionally, make sure to visit VinWonders, a paradise of entertainment, where thrilling rides, water parks, and interactive zones await visitors of all ages. Here, you can experience adrenaline-pumping adventures and joyful moments with your family and friends.

Vietnam music


Vietnam musicVietnam music

>>> Book rooms in Vinpearl Phu Quoc, Vinpearl Nha Trang, Vinpearl Resort & Golf Nam Hoi An, and Vinpearl Resort & Spa Ha Long for a luxurious and comfortable stay!

The development of Vietnamese music is a fascinating journey that reflects the country's rich history, cultural diversity, and artistic evolution. From ancient times to the present day, Vietnam's music has been deeply intertwined with the life of its people, capturing their joys, sorrows, and aspirations.

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