A book titled “Hat boi, don ca tai tu and cai luong (three folk music genres) from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries” by a group of overseas Vietnamese researchers was released on Sept 27.
The book, authored by Nguyen Duc Hiep and Nguyen Le Tuyen from the Australian National University with the help from professor Yves Defrance from France’s Rennes University, provides readers with valuable materials, writings and photos on the history and development of “hat boi” (classical Vietnamese opera), “don ca tai tu” and “cai luong” (southern traditional music) spanning from the late 19th century to the early 20th century.
The researchers show that the traditional genres and the artists performing them were showcased to the world at fairs in Paris and Marseille some hundred years ago.
Also provided is the evidence indicating the birth of “world music” such as the combination of the Western guitar with the Vietnamese “dan bau” (monochord) into the “dan luc huyen cam” (six-stringed lute), which is the scalloped Vietnamese adaptation of the French guitar. The six-string lute has its fingerboard, the wood of the neck between the frets, scooped out to ease the pressing and is typically used for traditional Vietnamese music.
The book release also marked the birthday of renowned French artist Cléo de Mérode, who performed a dance with the Vietnamese “don ca tai tu” piece “Vu khuc Dong Duong” (The Indochinese dance) in the background.
The piece was notated by Julien Tiersot, a famed French ethnologist and musicologist, in the early 1900s when a Vietnamese “don ca tai tu” band performed at the Paris World Fair in France as a representative of the Indochinese culture. The piece is of particular significance to the country’s bid to earn the genre the UNESCO recognition as a World Intangible Heritage.
The performance of the piece has also inspired Hiep, Tuyen and their group to make a movie in the country’s first-ever film project on the genre.
“Don ca tai tu”, considered one of the country’s main chamber music genres, originated from the Hue court music and the southern region’s folk music. The genre has been developed since the 19th century and tailored to commoners’ tastes. It thrived in the early 20th century and remains crucial in the country’s traditional cultural activities.