Vietnam Embassy in Stockholm

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The Kinh and all ethnic minorities in Vietnam have a time-honoured tradition of music and dance. This is evidenced by the figures seen dancing to music which were engraved on the bronze drums unearthed at Dong Son, Thanh Hoa province, and lithophones discovered in the Tay Nguyen Highlands and other relics.

Chronicles and other historical records since the 10th century mention music and dancing at royal courts.

However, besides royal court music there was also a rich vein of music which was closely attached to the daily lives of the working masses. Thousands of diverse musical tunes have been collected from this source. Every district and ethnic groups still has its own popular tunes. From quan ho folk songs in the North, to Hue songs (songs from the Perfume River), "guessing game" songs, satirical songs, joking songs and numerous songs in southern province, all are characterised by a profound sensibility and poetic, lyrical sense.


The Dan Bau
The dan bau is musical instrument that inspires passion in every Vietnamese. The structure of the dan bau is very simple. It consists of along piece of , on which is stretched a silk or brass string, which is fastened at one end to a peg and at the other to a flexible bamboo plate. The string is passed repeatedly through an open dried gourd as sound box. Although having only one string it can emit all the sounds in the pentatonic scale. The eight notes of Vietnamese music give modulations of greater amplitudes than those obtained by any other single-stringed instrument in the world.

Today the dan bau is made very carefully to ensure aesthetic and sound quality. When played in public it is often used with an electronic amplifier.

The Khen
The khen is very popular with various ethnic groups in Vietnam, such as the Thai, the Muong, and the H'mong.

The H'mong use the khen for courting, and as an instrument for khen dances.

The khen is a wind instrument consisting of several small bamboo tubes, arranged close together with one end connected to a wooden sound box. The khen may have six , 12 or 14 bamboo tubes.

The bamboo flute
The bamboo flute has long been attached to the cultural and spiritual life of the Vietnamese. It could be said that the bamboo flute contains the musical essence of the Vietnamese countryside together with all four tranquil seasons. The bamboo flute is a stem of fine bamboo with a diameter of 1.5cm and a length of about 30cm. On the stem there is one mouth piece and 10 finger holes.

The Nhi
The nhi, or the co, is popular among several ethnic groups in Vietnam. It also has other names; but it has the same character. It is a sort of vertical violin with two strings of braided silk, along handle and a sound box covered by a membrane of snake skin. The nhi with its melodious sounds can express the subtle mood of man's soul. Due to its diversified use, the nhi is in dispensable in a traditional musical orchestra.

The Tam Thap Luc
The tam thap luc is a sort of zither with 36 brass strings as it is called. It sound box is made of wood. The instrument is placed in front of the musician, often woman, who use her right hand to regulate the pitch and vibrator, while plucking the strings with her left hand.

The Ty Ba
The ty ba is a pear-shaped guitar with four strings made of braided silk. It was indispensable in the ancient eight-instrument musical band. The ty ba was mainly use in royal court orchestras, and was rarely seen in popular musical bands.

The Nguyet
The nguyet, also known as the kim in the South, is a sort of guitar with round wooden sound box, from which it probably derives it names, nguyet (moon). It has a long neck which emits particularly melodious sounds. The instrument is one of the eight in a classical orchestra.

The Gong
Gongs were found in Vietnam in the Bronze Age (Dong Son culture from 2000 to 3500 years ago). Gongs were cast in bronze an alloy of cooper, zinc and lead. Gongs are used as an musical instrument by most ethnic groups in Vietnam.

The T'rung
The t'rung (similar to the xylophone) is common among various ethnic minorities in the Tay Nguyen Central Highlands. Played by the common people, the t'rung consist of 5-7 bamboo stems graduated in length and tied together with two parallel cords. It can be rolled up and put in a back basked. But on stage, the t'rung is hung in a metal stand, and the player uses two or even four beaters to strike the bamboo stems at the same time. The sound of the t'rung is said to resemble that of the running or falling water from the streams and waterfalls in the Highlands. Reminding the audience of the sheer majesty of the scenery.