09 Must-See Art Performances For Vietnam Cultural Tours

by Minh Tâm
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After more than 4,000 years of history, this S-shaped country has developed a rich fine art system with a wide range of traditional art forms. If you are about to take Vietnam cultural tours, never miss out following performances or you will definitely regret.

1. Water Puppet Show – the most famous show for Vietnam cultural tours.

Originated 10 centuries ago, water puppetry is the traditional art form of northern Vietnamese farmers. Literally, it is a game when the performers tell a story by making the puppet dance on the water. It might be a folktale, folklore, or a legendary about a national hero.

Art Performances For Vietnam Cultural Tours

Source: Luxury Travel Vietnam

Puppets are made from wood. The performers make use of strings and bamboo rods to control and move the puppet. The show also involves “Chèo” singing and the appearance of other traditional musical instruments.

Vietnamese people invented this art form just to entertain after hard working days. Hence, the performers are no one else but the farmers themselves. Performing wholeheartedly with their passion and love, these people have made up an excellent show that could draw in the attention of every audience.

Traditionally, water puppet show would occur in the middle of the rice paddies or the village’s lake. There always has a small pavilion amidst the water. This is where the performers hide when playing the puppet dance.

Nowadays, travelers could enjoy this show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre nearby Hoan Kiem Lake when taking Vietnam tours to Hanoi. The show is on air every day, and each show would last for 1.5 hours.

2. Quan Ho Singing – A romantic performing art in Kinh Bac.

If you have a chance to travel to Kinh Bac (Bac Ninh and Bac Giang Province today), do not forget to watch “Quan Họ” Singing once. It is a romantic performing art with a tradition dating back to the 13th century.

This folk music is a cultural activity where people from different villages and areas gather and share their passion for music. It is also a chance to meet new friends and strengthen the community’s union.

During a Quan Ho show, there will be two groups of performers standing on two dragon boats: one for women and one for men. The singers would sing and respond to each other by using the same melodies to express different lyrics. Throughout the show, it looks like an intimate chat between girls and boys. It might be prepared in advance, or just a freestyle right during the performance.

There are about 400 song lyrics with more than 200 different melodies. The lyrics tend to express the feeling of couples, who have to break up involuntarily. It displays the sadness of lovers after separation and their happiness when meeting each other again. It has hence formed a custom that male and female singers in one performance cannot marry each other.

Quan Ho plays a significant role in the spiritual life of Kinh Bac people. People perform it during special occasions like rituals, festivals, competitions, and private gatherings also. After times, this genre is still a popular cultural activity of northern people.

There are now 49 heritage villages that well retain the tradition of Quan Ho singing. Let’s plan a tailor-made tour with Luxury Travel to enjoy this special performing art!

3. Xoan Singing – Vietnam traditional art form to worship Hung Kings.

“Xoan” Singing is another worth observing performance during your Vietnam cultural tours. This folk music often takes place during the first months of the lunar new year in Phu Tho Province – the cradle of Vietnamese culture.

Xoan Singing is closely associated with the worship of Hung Kings – the ancestors of the Vietnamese. It involves singing, drumming, dancing, and clapper beating. There need to be 10 to 15 practitioners to deliver a complete show of Xoan Singing, including “trùm” – the male instrumentalists and “kép” – the female singers.

Xoan Singing serves 03 different purposes: to honor Hung Kings and the local deities; to wish for good crops, health, and luck; and to entertain during festivals. This traditional music is played in spiritual events in communal houses, temples, and shrines. Especially, it is an inevitable part of Hung King Festival – a significant Vietnamese national holiday.

With its indispensable cultural values, in 2017, UNESCO designated Xoan Singing as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. If you have the chance to visit Hung King Temple, do not forget to watch it!

4. Ca Tru Singing – Sung Poetry in North Vietnam.

“Ca Trù” is a complicated art form where the singers would perform songs that has poetic-like lyrics. “Hát Ả Đào” is its alternative name because of the fact that it was first invented by a female named “Đào” (“Ả” in Vietnamese means maiden).

A group of Ca Tru singers includes 03 people: a female vocalist and two instrumentalists. The woman sits in the center and sings while playing “phách” – a traditional Vietnamese percussion. The two male instrumentalists would play the 3-string lute and praise drum.

People often say Ca Tru is the Vietnamese version of Geisha. This traditional art form used to be performed to entertain the wealthy, mandarin, or the royal court.  

Due to the lack of practice and improvisation, Ca Tru gradually loses its prime position in Vietnamese culture. There appear to be fewer and fewer practitioners who really love and have the ability to perform it perfectly Since the 20th century, this unique traditional art has been almost extinct in society. Nowadays, the practitioners have made their every attempt to teach new generations the old repertoire. However, it is still at risk of disappearance due to the decreasing number of followers.

UNESCO listed Ca Tru as a World Intangible Heritage that needs urgent protection and safeguarding in 2009.

5. Nha Nhac – Royal Court Music in Hue.

Art Performances For Vietnam Cultural Tours

Source: Luxury Travel Vietnam

Hue Citadel is among the best options for Vietnam cultural tours thanks to its historical and cultural significance. The city possesses 02 UNESCO World Cultural Heritages: the Complex of Hue Monuments and the Royal Court Music. A Hue city tour will never be complete if you forget to watch the Court Music performance inside the Imperial City.

This performing art is more popular with the name “Nhã Nhạc”, which means “the elegant music”. Nha Nhac first appeared under the Le Dynasty but it was not until the reign of Nguyen Emperors that it was institutionalized. It has been an inevitable part of court rituals and also a means to communicate with the Gods. 

Nowadays, when the court context no longer exists, Vietnamese people have made efforts to preserve this tradition and prevent it from fading out. Not only serving significant royal rituals, Nha Nhac show is also open for tourists to enjoy. 

Visitors could watch Nha Nhac at “Duyệt Thị Đường”, which is the royal theatre inside the Forbidden City. 

6. Bai Choi Folk Singing – a traditional music genre in Central Vietnam.

Bai Choi Singing – the traditional art of central provinces is the unique blend of different genres: music, poetry, acting, painting, and literature. It was originally a folk game but then the locals developed and improvised it to be a kind of musical performance.

Taking Vietnam cultural tours to the Central, visitors will be able to not only watch an interesting performance but also participate in the Bai Choi Games during the festival. Bai Choi Festival often occurs during the Lunar New Year in a large and open space like the communal house’s yard or the market’s square.

The locals will build 9 – 11 huts and divide them into two separate sides. Each side consists of 4 – 5 huts, each of which is 2 – 3 meters high and could carry 5 – 6 players. The central hut is for “anh Hiệu” – the person being in charge of leading the game and rocking the stage at one time.

The game begins when the leader starts to sing. During the card game, folk songs are performed to encourage the players and add more vibes to the festival. It is indeed an exceptionally joyful activity to join during Tet Holiday.

Bai Choi Singing helps to introduce the creativity and diligence of Vietnamese people in the Central. With its significant cultural value, UNESCO has listed this art form as an intangible heritage of humanity.

7. Cultural Space of Gong – A must-see for Vietnam Cultural Tours in Central Highlands.

Art Performances For Vietnam Cultural Tours

Source: Luxury Travel Vietnam

If you are taking a custom-made tour to Central Highlands, the Cultural Space of Gong is absolutely a cannot-miss show to witness. It is a great way to get to know more about the culture of the local tribal people.

Gongs and Gong music are closely tied to the rituals and ceremonies of local ethnic people all over the 5 provinces of Central Highlands. When people from different ethnicities do not share the same language and customs, Gong music helps to connect them into a large united community.

Gongs are the must-have item in any musical performance or events of ethnic people in this land. They always go in a set, which often consists of up to 20 items of different shapes and sizes. The locals believe that gongs are the language that connects human-beings and the supernatural world.

Gong music is common in some important occasions namely the Gong Festival (annually), the Elephant Race Festival in Don Village (in March of the odd year), and the Spring Festivals (from January to March in every village). If you are taking a Vietnam heritage tour to Central Highlands, you can also participate in the campfire at the Communal House of the village. The locals tend to perform Gong music and invite tube wine as a way to warmly welcome their guests.

8. À Ố Show – A demonstration of Vietnam during urbanization.

Art Performances For Vietnam Cultural Tours

Source: Luxury Travel Vietnam

A O Show is one of the 04 key spectacles of Lune Production that have received huge appreciation worldwide. If Vietnamese traditional art is your cup of tea, this show is definitely a must-watch.

The show demonstrates the charming beauty of the countryside in contrast with the fast urbanization pace of the nation. A O Show consists of bamboo circus, contemporary dance, music, and other additional artistic elements. These things altogether well depict the change in the daily life of Vietnamese people when the country turns from a rural agricultural country to a developing nation like today.

The thing that makes A O Show different from other spectacles is that all the props are made from bamboo, which is closely tied to Vietnamese countryside. This tree stands for the strength, determination, and resilience of the local people. 

A O Show has toured the world since 2015 with an aim to bringing Vietnam closer to foreigners. Moreover, tourists can also watch this show at Saigon Opera House. Without any doubts, this performance is one of the highlights of Vietnam cultural tours in the South.

9. Đờn Ca Tài Tử – Southern Vietnam Folk Music.

Art Performances For Vietnam Cultural Tours

Source: Luxury Travel Vietnam

Compared to other traditional art forms of Vietnam, “Đờn Ca Tài Tử” singing appears to be the youngest. It first appeared in the 19th century in southwestern Vietnam, demonstrating the life of Mekong Delta people.

Southern people make up this new genre of music by combining two traditional music forms: “nhạc lễ” – the royal ceremonial music and “hát bội” – the classical Vietnamese folk theatre. A repertoire would consist of 20 principal songs and 72 classical songs. But that does not mean there is no room for variation and improvisation. People could change the skeletal melody or rhythm patterns to verify their performances.

“Đờn ca tài tử” singing plays a significant role in the life of the locals in Mekong Delta. Not only is it a way to entertain, but it also helps to demonstrate the locals’ feelings and determination in life. It is also performed on important occasions like weddings, festivals, and funeral also.

Visitors can enjoy this music show when taking a tailor-made tour to Mekong Delta. Different from other shows that happen in the theatre, you can watch it right in the orchards or at the local family.

The bottom lines

With a wide range of traditional performing arts, Vietnam is undoubtedly a promising land for art lovers. Let’s immerse yourself in the harmonic melody of Vietnamese music and get to know more about the long-lasting culture of this beautiful country. Do not hesitate to go, as the impression it brings will never dissatisfy you.

If you are not so good at planning a schedule or find a venue for these activities, consult Luxury Travel. Having operating custom-made tours for decades, we are confident in designing you the best itinerary for your Vietnam cultural tours.

Our objective is not simply about creating tours. We are here to make differences!

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