Vietnam Art Books -- Young breathe life into ancient art form (Nov 15, 2002)

Young breathe life into ancient art form (Nov 15, 2002)

The Hanoi National Conservatory is hosting a ca tru, or choral chamber music training course for young artists in an attempt to revive the ancient art.

"Ca tru dates back to the 11th century and is fading away although it is a valuable legacy of traditional Vietnamese culture," said director of the Performance Art Department, People's Artist Le Tien Tho.

The art involves a singer who strikes two phach, short bamboo drum sticks, against a ban phach, a hollow bamboo instrument, emitting three different sounds on a single tempo.

Dan day (three-string instrument) players accompany the singer and the audience claps to the rhythm. The sound range in ca tru originates from lullabies of the Hong (Red) River delta.

"Ca tru was popular in palaces and villages alike, in northern regions and in Hue, but by the early 20th century it was but an obscure memory," the director said.

The art became known as co dau and was performed by geisha-like singers. Ca tru was forgotten because it was gradually associated to co dau, thought of as a purely lustful creation of the ruling class.

"Singers abandoned their careers and some even left their homes because of this distortion," said Nguyen Thi Bach Van, director of the Bich Cau Ca Tru Club.

The art has recently been regaining its original traits and status' with encouragement from the Ministry of Culture and Information and the Performance Art Department, co-organising the training course.

The course, financially supported by the Ford Foundation, is part of a project which also provides water puppetry training.

Going on until the end of next month, the course has attracted 65 young artists from 13 ca tru clubs of Hanoi, Nam Dinh, Ha Tay, Hai Duong, Haiphong, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Bac Ninh.

There are 41 artists taking part in vocal classes and the rest are learning musical instruments. By the end of the two months, participants will be expected to perform five pieces of phach, popular ca tru songs and play a musical instrument.

Traditional music researchers will also expose basic knowledge about the history of ca tru and its position in Vietnam's traditional music. (VNS)

Reprinted with permission from Nhan Dan Newspaper


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