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An experience we will never forget
March 24, 2012

Traditional music

Việt Nam boasts a remarkable range of traditional performing arts genres, which vary in style from quan họ, chèo, tuồng and water puppetry in the north to ca Huế, ca kịch Huế and the music and dance of the royal palace in the centre and “Đờn ca tài tử” & “Cải lương” in the south, especially the Mekong Delta.

Don ca tai tu  came to life about two centuries ago and has been much loved by southern people of Vietnam and considered a national traditional music.

Lyrics of don ca tai tu can be accompanied by several musical instruments as dan tranh (16-stringed zither),dan bau (one-stringed gourd zither), dan nguyet (moon shaped two stringed lute), dan nhi (two-stringed fiddle), song lang (two pieces of bamboo struck against each other to keep rhythm, guitar phim lom(concave-fret guitar) and also likely with western violin, flute of Chinese origin.

Vietnamese musicians accepted the Western guitar for don ca tai tu but they transformed and Vietnamized it to be a suitable one for playing their don ca tai tu.

They improved the guitar by making the frets deeper, turning them into deep fret guitar and changing the way to attune the instrument.

The instrumentation to accompany the song is very peculiar and unique. Upper mentioned musical instruments are used to accompany the songs of don ca tai tu as ensemble, however, the instrumentation is very flexible as only two or three of them can form up an ensemble.


The monochord dan bau is a very peculiar and charming musical instrument. It is one of real Vietnamese traditional musical instruments and its sound is amazingly beautiful. Vietnamese musicians widened the range of it and dan tranh to play higher and lower tones respectively.

Originally the musicians of don ca tai tu did not perform for their livelihoods, just to entertain themselves or others and that is a reason why it is called amateurs’ music. But it doesn’t mean to be a musician of don ca tai tu is easy. Its musicians have to practise very hard for a long time so that don ca tai tu musicians can be called as professional musicians even if they don’t perform it for materialism.

As an amateur, it needs not any special prepared stage as professional art music. Accordingly it can easily and deeply goes into every corner of usual Vietnamese life so that it can be played at festivals, various parties, after harvests, under shade of trees, on boats, temples and romantically under a bright moon night.

It can be said "Don ca tai tu " possesses a musical and magical power of charming Vietnamese people. Especially it is believed that the emotion and the soul of southern Vietnamese people are melted in it.


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