On Hoi An’s quay-side there’s a little theatre giving performances of Vietnamese music and dances. I decided to give it a go and was pleasantly surprised.
Clearly there will be grander performances in Ho Chi Minh City’s Opera House which I will visit tonight but I found the theatre’s show both attractive and endearing.
Here are some snippets from the evening’s performance:
A women’s water-gathering dance:
A dance of dragons and turtles:
A dance of the goddesses (The arm choreography reminded me very much of the Mongolian Ballet I attended when it visited Lucca’s Giglio theatre during Christmas.
A scene from Vietnam’s equivalent of “Il Trovatore”:
A virtuoso performance Paganini-style on the Vietnamese fiddle.
I’m trying to get my head around Vietnamese instruments and have come up with the following list:
- Đàn bầu – monochord zither
- Đàn đáy – long-necked three-stringed lute with trapezoidal body
- Đàn nguyệt (also called nguyệt cầm or đàn kìm) – moon-shaped two-string lute
- Đàn sến – two-string lute
- Đàn tam – fretless lute with snakeskin-covered body and three strings
- Đàn tranh – long zither
- Đàn tỳ bà – pear-shaped lute with four strings
- Đàn đoản (also called đàn tứ) – moon-shaped lute with short neck; little used
- Guitar phím lõm (also called lục huyền cầm or ghi-ta phím lõm) – “Vietnamese” acoustic or electric guitar with scalloped fret board; used primarily in cải lương
- Đàn tứ dây – bass guitar in the shape of a đàn đáy
- Cầm – 7-stringed zither equivalent to the Chinese guqin;
- Sắt – zither with 25 strings equivalent to the Chinese se;
- Đàn tính – long-necked lute with a gourd body and two or three silk strings; used by the Tay, Nung, and Thai ethnic groups
- Bro – fretted zither with a body made of bamboo and a gourd resonator; used by minority ethnic groups in the Central Highlands
- Goong – tube zither with a bamboo body; used by minority ethnic groups in the Central Highlands
- Đàn gáo – two-stringed vertical violin with coconut resonator
- Đàn hồ – two-stringed vertical violin with wooden resonator; hồ derives from Chinese hu, as in huqin)
- Đàn nhị – two-stringed vertical violin
- K’ni (also spelled k’ny or k’ný) – one-string vertical violin; played by the Jarai people of the Central Highland
- Đàn tam thập lục – hammered dulcimer with 36 metal strings
- Sáo (also called sáo trúc) – transverse flute made of bamboo or hardwood
- Kèn – class of double reed instruments similar to the oboe and shehnai
Free reed mouth organs
- Đing nǎm – free-reed mouth organ with gourd body and bamboo pipes; played by upland minorities
- M’buot – free-reed mouth organ with gourd body and bamboo pipes; played by upland minorities
- Púa – valveless brass trumpet]
- Ốc “snail” – conch trumpet
- Trống – drum played with sticks
- Nruas tuag (also called Ư chua – drum used by the Hmông ethnic group for funeral music
- Cồng chiêng – tuned gong (comes in both flat and knobbed varieties)
- Tam âm la – set of three small, high-pitched flat gongs in a frame; used primarily in nhã nhạc music
- T’rưng – bamboo xylophone
- Đàn đá – lithophone, commonly having 9+ stone bars, 65cm-102cm in length. It is believed the instrument dates back to 1000 BC. Also called Goong Lú (M’nong people), Kologolo (M’nong people), Gôông Luk (Mạ people).
I hope to get a taste of that lithophone tonight in Ho Chi Minh City!
It was a real pity that the audience was so small for even a smallish theatre. I do not think that Vietnamese music has to be an acquired taste: it is (for me at least) immediately appealing and its pentatonic scale must be familiar to any one from Scotland – indeed the concluding item was a Vietnamese version of Auld Lang Syne!