February 23 is celebrated as the Ca Tru Day in Vietnam. Google chose an illustration by artist Xuan Le to mark the occasion. It depicts a typical ca tru performance, with a female singer playing the phach (a bamboo bar beaten with small wooden sticks), accompanied by a man playing the dan day, a long-necked, three-string lute used exclusively for this art form.
The illustration also features a judge – a ca tru whose job is to strike a drum in praise or disapproval of the singer’s performance, usually done after every passage of the song.
A Google statement said the art form was being featured on its home page not only to show appreciation but also to remind the youth of this traditional art form, which is said to be in danger of disappearing.
Ca tru originated in the 11th century and has characteristics similar to Japan’s geisha rituals and opera performances. Initially, it was considered entertainment for the royals. Later it became an integral part of Hanoi culture, Google noted
Nguyen Van Mui, principal of the Thai Ha Ca Tru School, said, “For a family like ours, with seven generations of ca tru performers, it’s such an honor. I feel this art form is being given its due appreciation.”
According to Mui’s Son Nguyen Van Khue, there are nearly 100 ca tru clubs in the country. He has given lectures about the art form in several Vietnamese localities as also abroad in countries like Japan and China.
“But ca tru is fading away right now. Our family has only been able to archive about 40 songs and 100 tunes. We are trying to preserve the art form and keep it authentic. Those who want to take up this art form should not only have talent, but also the will to maintain it,” Khue said.
Xuan Le, the author of the illustration, said he watched ca tru videos to find inspiration for the work. He hoped that being featured by Google will make more people curious to find out more about this art form.
Ca tru estimated to go back 10 centuries, was included in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritages in need of Urgent Safeguarding by UNESCO in 2009. Nowadays, ca tru has become a type of chamber music for those who enjoy its combination of music and poetry.