The Culture

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Heavily influenced by the Chinese to the north and Indian-influenced Khmer and Cham musical traditions to the south, this blend has produced an original style and instrumentation for Vietnamese music. Written music and the five note (pentatonic) scale may be of Chinese origin, but Vietnamese choral music is unique, as the melody and the tones must move as one; the melody cannot rise during a verse that has a falling tone. Vietnamese folk music is usually sung without any instrumental accom­paniment and was adapted by the Communist Party for many a patriotic marching song. Classical, or 'learned music ', is rather formal and frigid. It was performed at the imperial court for th e entertainment of the mandarin elite. There are two main types of classical chamber music: hat a dao from the north and ca Hue from central Vietnam. Traditiona l music is played on a wide array of indigenous instruments, dating back to the ancient do son drums that are sought-after works of art. The best known traditional instrument in use is the dan bau, a single-stringed zither that generates an astounding array of tones. Also common at perform­ances of traditional music is the dan tranh, a 16-string zither with a haunting melody, and the to rung, a large bamboo xylophone. Each of Vietnam's ethno-linguistic minorities has its own musical tradi­tions that often include distinctive costumes and instruments, such as reed flutes, lithophones (similar to xylophones), bamboo whistles, gongs and stringed instruments made from gourds.The easiest way to catch a performance of Vietnamese music is to dine at one of the many local restaurants offering traditional performances. Several museums offer short performances
Like the rest of Sou theast Asia, Vietnam has a thriving dom estic popscene. The most celebra ted artist is Khanh Ly, who left Vietnam in 1975 for the USA. She is massive both in Vietnam and abroad. Her music is widely available in Vietnam, but the government frowns on her recently composed lyrics that recall the trials of her life as a refugee. Vietnam 's number one domestic heart-throb is Hue-born Quang Linh, whose early popularity among Saigonese shot him up the local pop charts. He is adored by Vietnamese of all ages for his radiant love songs. Other celebrated local popsingers include sex symbol Phuong Thanh, Vietnam's answer to Madonna or Britney Spears, only with more clothes Vietnamese girls are seriously into heart-throb Lam Truong. Of the legion of legendary Vietnamese contemporary-music composers, the leader of the pack was Trinh Cong Son, who died in HCMC in 2001. A former literature s tudent from Hue, he wrote more than 500 songs , making him perhaps the most prolific Vietnamese compos er in history.

Traditionally reserved for ceremonies and festivals, tourism has brought Vietnamese folk dance back to the mainstream. The Conical Hat Dance is one of the most visually stunning dances. A gro up of women wearing ao dai (the national dress of Vietnam) shake their stuff and spin around, whirling their classic conical hats like Fred Astaire with his cane. Vietnam's ethnic minorities have their own dancing traditions, which are distinctly different from the Vietnamese majority. A great deal of anthro­pological research has been carried out in recent years in order to preserve and rev ive important indigenous traditions.Some upmarket restaurants host dance performances at the weekend. Minority dances are organised in some of the more popular tourist stops in northwest Vietnam