Ca trù singing

Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

Country(ies): Viet Nam



Ca trù singing

Ca trù is a complex form of sung poetry found in the north of Viet Nam using lyrics written in traditional Vietnamese poetic forms. Ca trù groups comprise three performers: a female singer who uses breathing techniques and vibrato to create unique ornamented sounds, while playing the clappers or striking a wooden box, and two instrumentalists who produce the deep tone of a three-stringed lute and the strong sounds of a praise drum. Some Ca trù performances also include dance. The varied forms of Ca trù fulfill different social purposes, including worship singing, singing for entertainment, singing in royal palaces and competitive singing. Ca trù has fifty-six different musical forms or melodies, each of which is called thể cách. Folk artists transmit the music and poems that comprise Ca trù pieces by oral and technical transmission, formerly, within their family line, but now to any who wish to learn. Ongoing wars and insufficient awareness caused Ca trù to fall into disuse during the twentieth century. Although the artists have made great efforts to transmit the old repertoire to younger generations, Ca trù is still under threat of being lost due to the diminishing number and age of practitioners.


Decision 4.COM 14.12

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, as follows:

  • U1: Ca trù singing embodies a range of musical and dance practices, as well as expertise and knowledge of poetry, constituting an identity marker of Vietnamese communities that is transmitted today by musicians and devotees dedicated to performing, teaching and developing the tradition;
  • U2: Le Ca trù connaît depuis quelques années un regain d’intérêt qui crée une base importante pour développer une culture durable du Ca trù dans un contexte moderne ; pourtant, la viabilité de l’élément est toujours en danger à cause du petit nombre de musiciens possédant suffisamment de compétences, de connaissances et de savoir-faire pour exécuter et enseigner le Ca trù, du manque de ressources financières pour soutenir et développer la forme, de la disparition de lieux d’exécution traditionnels et de l’évolution économique, sociale et culturelle rapide ;
  • U3: The proposed safeguarding measures are coherent and wide-ranging, supported by an ambitious and well-funded plan to safeguard Ca trù that can be expected to have a significant impact on the sustainability of the practice and transmission of Ca trù singing, while relying on the deep knowledge still existing in the participating communities;
  • U4: The element has been nominated with the free, prior and informed consent of communities, groups of musicians, their families, Ca trù clubs, and with the support of relevant Government departments, while the inscription and the proposed safeguarding measures will pay adequate respect for the customary practices and rules concerning various rituals, local beliefs and associated family matters;
  • U5: Ca trù singing is included in the inventory of Vietnamese musical heritage and performing arts held by the Vietnamese Institute for Musicology within the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.



© 2008 Vietnamese Institute for Musicology, Hanoi, Vietnam

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