The Arts, Music and Drama
ca dao, tone scale, Contemporary drama, instrumental accompaniment, percussion instruments
Traditional music in Vietnam reflected a variety of influences from China and neighboring societies in the region. The use of the five-tone scale reflects Chinese influence, while Indian-style dancing and percussion instruments, such as the Cham rice drum, were borrowed from neighboring Champa. Similar to the Chinese style, music and verse were often closely tied together, as in various types of theater and the uniquely Vietnamese ca dao (a form of lyrical folk song performed without instrumental accompaniment).
Since the colonial era, Western music and theater have begun to dominate over the traditional forms. After 1954, Western-style rock music attained considerable popularity in South Vietnam. As in the West, the lyrics often contained a political message, conveying the malaise of a generation raised in a society ripped asunder by war. The popularity of Western-style music continued after reunification in 1976. Despite government efforts to promote music that contains messages of patriotism and self-sacrifice and that is based on traditional forms like the ca dao, Western music has tended to predominate through imported records and tapes. On the surface, popular music in Vietnam lacks the underlying message of rebellion that it sometimes projects in the West. However, the government is still concerned that Western popular music encourages attitudes of individualism and self-gratification—values not welcomed in official circles. Contemporary drama, often based on Western styles, is often laced with satire, as authors use irony and innuendo to criticize the shortcomings of the government and the ruling party.
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