Ca Tru Performances in Hanoi’s Old Quarter

A good way for tourists to experience the local culture  of Hanoi is to attend a live Ca tru performance, a traditional form of Vietnamese music, performed by Thang Long Ca Tru Club’s singers at Quan De Temple on Hang Buom Street in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.

For more than a year, the Thang Long Ca tru Club has organised Ca tru performances at Quan De Temple on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights with a desire to preserve and promote the value of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. A Ca tru performance is now included in many companies’ tours for foreigners visiting Hanoi.

To learn more about the performances, we arrived at Quan De Temple to attend a Ca tru performance one Friday evening where we met some foreign tourists from the UK, Brazil, France and RoK. At first listening, Vietnam’s traditional music forms can stretch the less agile tonal repertoire of the average western ear. Ca tru’s vocal gymnastics can be an especially challenging experience. But if anyone enjoys exploring world music and traditional music, don’t miss a performance of Ca tru.

Foreign tourists register to watch Ca tru performances at Quan De Temple (28 Hang Buom Street, Hanoi).
Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Quan De Temple is a suitable place for Ca tru performances. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Ca tru performances by Thang Long Ca tru Club are held at Quan De Temple on weekend nights. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

A brief introduction on Ca tru singing is made before each performance of Thang Long Ca tru Club. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

A young female singer performs Ca tru. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Ca tru artist Pham Thi Hue plays Day, a typical musical instrument of Ca tru singing. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Three Ca tru female singers of Thang Long Ca tru Club perform at Quan De Temple. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Tea and mung bean cake are served during the performance. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

At the end of the show, audience can put bamboo sticks into a bronze pot to show their satisfaction for the artists.
Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Before each show, Ca tru singers tell the history of the art and introduce the audiences to musical instruments used in the performance. While enjoying the chanting lyrics of Ca tru songs, tourists often put bamboo sticks in a small bronze pot placed in front of the stage to show their satisfaction and encourage the Ca tru singers and musicians. Tourists are also invited to try their hand at the instruments with the guidance of the performers.

Paul, a tourist from the UK, said, “I heard Ca tru singing on TV before, but it is the first time I have seen it live and I really enjoyed the tunes and lyrics of this genre of music as well as trying to play these musical instruments.”

Ponna Mat Kunsuk, a Thai visitor, is guided to use clappers by a female singer. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Paul, an English tourist, tries to play an instrument used in a Ca tru performance. Tat Son/VNP

A foreigner learns about the art of singing from Ca tru singers. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Notes of audience’s feelings after enjoying performances at Thang Long Ca tru Club. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Books about Ca tru singing on display at Thang Long Ca tru Club. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Ca tru is native to north Vietnam and dates back more than 1,000 years to the Ly Dynasty. It was especially popular with the royal court and feudal elites and has been passed down through the centuries orally. The art was recognised as an “intangible cultural heritage” in need of preservation by UNESCO in 2009.

Story: Ngan Ha – Photos: Tat Son