Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Ca Trù Musician | Fuji X-T1

In March 2015 I had just started researching and photographing the cult of Mother Goddesses in Hanoi, and was introduced once again to the ancient art of Ca Trù. I had attended one of its performances already during one of my photo expeditions in 2012. The performances were held in a small, but very atmospheric, old Vietnamese house on Hanoi's Hang Buom Street.

It is during these performances that I met Ms. Đặng Thị Hường, a Ca Trù singer and musician, who played the traditional Vietnamese three-stringed lute, amongst other instruments. She was keen to be photographed in a traditional Vietnamese dress at a different venue such, and we chose Đền Ngọc Sơn, the Temple of the Jade Mountain, on Lake Hoan Kiem.

Ca Trù (pronounced “ka tchoo”) is a complex form of sung poetry found in the north of Viet Nam using lyrics written in traditional Vietnamese poetic forms. It flourished in the 15th century when it was popular with the royal palace, and was a favorite activity of aristocrats and scholars. It was later performed in communal houses, inns and private homes. 

Ca Trù performances involve at least three people: a female singer (đào nương) who both sings and plays the clappers (known as the phách), an instrumentalist (kép) who plays the đàn đáy (three-stringed lute), and a “praise drummer“ known as quan viên who beats the trống chầu. When spectators (usually male) entered a Ca Trù performance, they purchased bamboo tally cards. In Chinese, Trù means card, while Ca means song in Vietnamese, and thus Ca Trù means tally card songs. The tallies were given to the singers in appreciation for their performance. After the performance, each singer received payment in proportion to the number of cards received.

I used the Fuji X-T1 and the Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 for most of the photographs made in this gallery.