Monday, 24 February 2020

Vietnam's Ca Trù & The Google Doodle

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved
I'm very pleased that Google Doodle; the special, temporary alteration of the logo on Google's home pages intended to commemorate holidays, events, achievements, and notable historical figures, has featured the ancient art of Ca Trù on February 23, 2020 which coincided with its day in Viet Nam. The 'doodle" is by Xuan Le, an artist in Ho Chi Minh City.

The illustration depicts a typical Ca Trù performance, with a female singer playing the phach (a bamboo bar beaten with small wooden sticks), accompanied by a man playing the dan day, a long-necked, three-string lute used exclusively for this art form. It also features a judge (left) who strikes a drum in praise or disapproval of the singer’s performance, usually done after every passage of the song.

Google tells us that Ca Trù fits somewhere in between the geisha ceremonies of Japan and the dramatic performances of opera. Its unique sound has roots that stretch back to the 11th century. First gaining popularity as entertainment for the aristocracy of Vietnam’s royal palaces, it later made its way into the inns and communal spaces of what is now modern-day Hanoi.

In 2015, I attended a number of these Ca Trù performances in an old house in the center of Hanoi's Old Quarter. I was granted permission to photograph at will from various corners of the 'stage', which resulted in The Ancient Art of Ca-Tru galley.