Ca Tru Singing

Ca Tru has many names, depending on each locality, each period of time, it is also called A dao singing, Cua dinh singing, Cua quyen singing, Co dau singing, Nha to singing, Nha tro singing and Ca cong singing. This is a long-standing and unique form of art which has special meaning in the musical treasures of Viet Nam, associated with the traditional festivals, customs, religions, literature, music, thoughts and philosophy of the Vietnamese.

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Ca Tru, which dates back to the 15th century, was performed attach in a cultural diversity space during different historical periods. Ca Tru showed a sense of identity and continuity in the art performances, being innovative and transmitted between generations by professional music guilds known as Giao phuong. These guilds have maintained the close relationship communities, forming characteristics of Ca Tru. Although undergone many social and historical changes, Ca Tru has still kept distinct vitality due to its art value in the Vietnamese culture.

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Ca Tru is unique with its private art performing space, musical instruments and distinct style of poetry. According to folk artists, Ca Tru has 56 different musical forms or melodies, each of which is called the cach. The singing technique is very sophisticated. The singers have to practice in very painstaking and meticulous manner. Streamlined instruments with timbres in contrast have elevated the beauty of each performing participant.

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Ca Tru performing is involved by at least three people:

  •  A female singer (called “dao” or “ca nuong”) both singing and playing the phach (which is made of bamboo or wood. It is struck with two hard wooden beaters, one of which is split into two so it creates a different slightly higher pitched sound.)
  •  A male instrumentalist (called “kep”) playing the dan day three-stringed lute (which has 3 strings and 10 frets.)
  •  And a person beating the trong chau or “praise drum” (called “quan vien” – a musician from the group of Ca Tru singer and instrumentalist or sometimes is the composer of the lyrics.) The praise drummer is a connoisseur of Ca Tru. The rhythms the drummer plays mark the end and beginning of different sections and phrases of music and he also uses particular drumming patterns to show his appreciation of the music and the performers.

The “dao” sits in the middle of performing mat. The “kep” and “quan vien” sit near by in two sides. Ca Tru performing space is quite small and the participation from the audiences is very essential.