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Various Artists: Vietnam: Traditional Folk Theatre, Hat Cheo

Album Notes

The Hát Chèo is a very old Vietnamese traditional theater, its origin being unkown. The only thing historians know is that it predates another court theatre called Hat tuông, which was created around the 14th century from an older type of traditional theatre. In Vietnam, singing is very important in theatre. In fact, the word "Hát" means "to sing." The Hát Chèo is basically a social satirical theatre, satirically commenting on the peasant classes, farmers, monks, rich people, intellectuals, students, monks, etc. The original accompanying orchestra comprises percussions, bamboo flutes, fiddles, and lutes. Fiddles and percussions are the two most important types of instruments. Lately, other instruments joined the ensemble: the dàn bau (the Vietnamese monochord) and the dàn tam thâp luc (a 36-stringed table zither). An interesting point to mention is that for every situation or character, there is a specific song or declamatory style. These recordings were made in 1976 by the well-known Vietnamese ethnomusicologist Professor Trân Van Khê. Quite unusual for our Western ears, yet, giving at the same time an explicit idea of the musical spirit and amazing creativity of Vietnamese people. ~ Bruno Deschênes


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