How to preserve Ca Tru folk music

Some recorded history books say Ca Tru music was first introduced into Vietnam in the early 16th century. But some others say it was introduced into the country three centuries later.

Despite the ups and downs of the nation’s history, Ca Tru remains a popular traditional music among Vietnamese people.

The harmonious blend of different musical timbers that the music offers, including castanets, the Vietnamese guitar (dan day), the traditional drum to keep time in singing, accompanying the singers’ beautiful voices and the romantic words of the songs have charmed listeners for generations.

Vietnam has requested UNESCO to recognize the music as a ‘world’s cultural heritage of mankind’.

To conserve and further develop Vietnamese traditional genres, including Ca Tru, the Vietnamese government in recent years has conducted many communication campaigns to raise the people’s awareness.

Several Ca Tru festivals have been organized in Hanoi which is believed to be the cradle of the style and elsewhere in the country.

The Hanoi Ca Tru Festival and the national Ca Tru Festival were arranged to honor the artists and to spot new talent among the younger generations to carry on the tradition. The festivals have drawn participants from various localities and from Ca Tru singing clubs nation wide, both young and old alike.

Quach Thi Ho, a Cat Tru singer who has been awarded the title “People’s Artist” is known throughout the country for her beautiful and charming voice. So is Mrs Bach Van, the chairwoman of the Ha Noi Ca Tru Club. The 10 years old club has more than 200 members. The members agree to meet once a month, on the last Sunday of the month on Bich Cau street.

Other Ca Tru club in Hanoi, worthy of note, is the Thang Long club. Though it came later than other clubs, its reputation has spread like wild fire. The club is chaired by a young traditional music lecturer at the Vietnam Conservatoire – Ms Pham Thi Hue.

Whatever is said about the Vietnamese Ca Tru, we cannot neglect to mention professor Tran Van Khe who has made considerable contributions to introduce the music to the outside world.

Thanks to his great efforts, the Vietnamese Ca Tru has been recognized as a treasure of the Vietnamese nation and the cultural heritage of mankind.

The UNESCO Music Council has also awarded Quach Thi Ho a Certificate of Merit recognising her as an “Excellent Ca Tru Singer in Vietnam”.

How to preserve and expand Ca Tru music remains a question without an answer right now for Vietnam, particular in the market economy.

Global integration brings in new foreign physical and cultural values to every Vietnamese. But at the same time, we have to take measures to preserve our own. We have to educate the younger generations, particularly those born in over the past 40 years about our cultural traditions.

It is regrettable to note that only 20 out of the 90 different styles of Ca Tru are now in existence with a few number of Ca Tru artists still performing.

These facts are persuasive evidence that relevant authorities must put effective policies into place to protect this precious traditional music genre.

First and foremost the most important factor is to have a good incentive policy for those who live on singing Ca Tru songs.

None but these artists can embody the soul of the music and keep it alive for generations to come./.