It is said that the best expression of a people is in their dances, because bodies don't lie. So if you want to know about Vietnam and the Vietnam culture, try to empathize with the various forms of Vietnamese folk dances. For the Vietnamese people, these dances are ways to give vent to their feelings, beliefs, desires and aspirations, as also depict their daily activities.
The diversity of the culture of Vietnam is no more best expressed than in the music forms prevalent in Vietnam. There exist myriad motifs in Vietnamese music, from chamber music to ritual music, from ensemble music and folk music to the musical accompaniments in theatres and poetry sessions. Besides there are regional variations too.
The rich heritage of the culture of Vietnam has given rise to the unique music and dance in Vietnam. It has both indigenous and foreign influences which has given it a character of its own.
Music and dance in Vietnam has been strongly influenced by the trends in the royal courts. For instance, Nha Nhac is the kind of Vietnamese music synthesized by the Nguyen Kings of the Nguyen Dynasty, the last dynasty of Vietnam. It was played in the royal court. The court also had dances mostly on the theme of wishing long life for the king and prosperity for the country. These dances are even performed today.
Quan ho is the other form of music in Vietnam. It is most popular in Bac Ninh Province and Bac Giang Province. Many variations to this Quan ho exist especially in northern Vietnam. Sometimes it is also improvised and is used in courtship rituals. Ho is somewhat the southern version of Quan ho with love, courtship and the countryside as the common themes.
Post 1986, musicians like Pham Van Ty have played a huge role in reviving the rhythmic and trance-oriented hat chau van or hat van. This form of music in Vietnam is used to raise spirits during rituals. Another popular folk music in Vietnam, ca tru is mostly sung by female singers.
Another form of Vietnamese music is the nhac dan toc cai bien. It is a comparatively new form of folk music arising in the 1950s. It is a fusion of traditional music and Western musical notations. It has been strongly criticized for diluting the traditional music. Tan nhac, meaning modern music, was developed in the 1930s by Nguyen Xuan Khoat.
Music in Vietnamese theatre includes hat tuong, hat cheo and cai luong. Cheo is the oldest surviving form of Vietnamese opera. It began in the 11th century while tuong arrived in the 13th century from China for the entertainment of the royalty. The themes of tuong were historical or concening the laws of social decorum. Cai lu’o’ng originated in the 12th century. The theme of Cai lu’o’ng was historical and contemporary.
The traditional musical instruments of Vietnam include Dan bau, Dan gao, Dan nguyet, Dan nh?, Dan tam thap l?c, Dan tranh, Dan ty ba, and T'rung.
Music and dance in Vietnam is renowned for the versatility and variety. Vietnamese dance forms today include the ancient Cham and Hmong dance, ballet and modern dance.
There is the Lion’s dance, a popular dance in Vietnam, that is celebrated in North Vietnam on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar Year, and the Unicorn dance in South Vietnam on the Tet holidays. While in the north the dance takes place at night, the people in the south perform it during the day.
A sturdy of music and dance in Vietnam will help you understand the customs and traditions of the Vietnamese, their beliefs and aspirations and their dreams.