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Essay About Vietnam Country Songs

Traditional Vietnamese music is highly diverse and syncretistic, combining native and foreign influences. Throughout its history, Vietnam has been most heavily influenced by the Chinese musical tradition, as an integral part, along with Korea, Mongolia and Japan.[1] The former Indochinese kingdom of Champa also exerted some influence (albeit more minor when compared to China) on Vietnam's traditional music.

Imperial court music[edit]

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Nhã nhạc is the most popular form of imperial court music, specifically referring to the court music played from the Trần dynasty to the very last Nguyễn dynasty of Vietnam, being synthesized and most highly developed by the Nguyễn emperors. Along with nhã nhạc, the imperial court of Vietnam in the 19th century also had many royal dances which still exist to this day. The theme of most of these dances is to wish the king longevity and the country wealth.

Classical music is also performed in honour of gods and scholars such as Confucius in temples. These categories are defined as Nhã Nhạc ("elegant music", ritual and ceremonial music), Đại nhạc ("great music"), and Tiểu nhạc ("small music") that was chamber music for the entertainment of the king.[2][3][4][5][6] In Vietnamese traditional dance court dances were defined as either van vu (civil servant dance) or vo vu (military dance).[7][8][9]

Folk music[edit]

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.(January 2011)

Vietnamese folk music is extremely diverse and includes dân ca, quan họ, hát chầu văn, ca trù, , and hát xẩm, among other forms.


Chèo is a form of generally satirical musical theatre, often encompassing dance, traditionally performed by peasants in northern Vietnam. It is usually performed outdoors by semi-amateur touring groups, stereotypically in a village square or the courtyard of a public building, although today it is also increasingly performed indoors and by professional performers.


Xẩm or Hát xẩm (Xẩm singing) is a type of Vietnamese folk music which was popular in the Northern region of Vietnam but is considered nowadays an endangered form of traditional music in Vietnam. In the dynastic time, xẩm was performed by blind artists who wandered from town to town and earned their living by singing in common places.

Quan họ[edit]

Quan họ (alternate singing) is popular in Hà Bắc (divided into nowadays Bắc Ninh and Bắc Giang provinces) and across Vietnam; numerous variations exist, especially in the Northern provinces. Sung a cappella, quan họ is improvised and is used in courtship rituals.

Hát chầu văn[edit]

Hát chầu văn or hát văn is a spiritual form of music used to invoke spirits during ceremonies. It is highly rhythmic and trance-oriented. Before 1986, the Vietnamese government repressed hát chầu văn and other forms of religious expression. It has since been revived by musicians like Phạm Văn Tỵ.

Nhạc dân tộc cải biên[edit]

Nhạc dân tộc cải biên is a modern form of Vietnamese folk music which arose in the 1950s after the founding of the Hanoi Conservatory of Music in 1956. This development involved writing traditional music using Western musical notation, while Western elements of harmony and instrumentation were added. Nhạc dân tộc cải biên is often criticized by purists for its watered-down approach to traditional sounds.

Ca trù[edit]

Ca trù (also hát ả đào) is a popular folk music which is said to have begun with Ả Đào, a female singer who charmed the enemy with her voice. Most singers remain female, and the genre has been revived since the Communist government loosened its repression in the 1980s, when it was associated with prostitution.

Ca trù, which has many forms, is thought to have originated in the imperial palace, eventually moving predominantly into performances at communal houses for scholars and other members of the elite (this is the type of Ca trù most widely known). It can be referred to as a geisha-type of entertainment where women, trained in music and poetry, entertained rich and powerful men.


"Hò" can not be thought of as the southern style of Quan họ. It is improvisational and is typically sung as dialogue between a man and woman. Common themes include love, courtship, the countryside, etc. "Hò" is popular in Cần Thơ - Vietnam.

Ritual music[edit]

Traditional musical instruments[edit]

Classical music[edit]

Vietnamese composers also followed western forms of music, such as Cô Sao of Đỗ Nhuận, considered as the first Vietnamese opera. Nguyễn Văn Quỳ also wrote 9 sonatas for Violin and Piano, following his French music studies and Vietnamese traditions. [10]

1940s–1980s, singer-songwriters[edit]

Main article: Popular music of Vietnam

The Vietnam War, the consequent Fall of Saigon, and the plight of Vietnamese refugees gave rise to a collection of musical pieces that have become "classical" anthems for Vietnamese people both in Vietnam and abroad. Notable writers include Phạm Duy and Trịnh Công Sơn. Singers include Thái Thanh, Khánh Ly and Lệ Thu.[11][12][13][14]

Many of these composers, in the North, also contributed Vietnamese revolutionary songs, known as nhạc đỏ "Red Music."

Modern music[edit]

Main article: V-pop

In Vietnam, there is no official music chart across the country or digital sale, though Vietnam Idol is reflected in "sales" of unlicensed CDs and downloads.

Pop music[edit]

The embrace of modern pop music culture has increased, as each new generation of people in Vietnam has become more exposed to and influenced by westernized music along with the fashion styles of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. Musical production has improved and expanded over the years as visiting performers and organizers from other countries have helped to stimulate the Vietnamese entertainment industry. Such performances include international stages like the Asia Music Festival in South Korea where popular Vietnamese singers such as Hồ Quỳnh Hương, Mỹ Tâm, Hồ Ngọc Hà, Lam Trường, and others have performed along with other singers from different Asian countries. During the recent years such as 2006 and beyond, Vietnamese pop music has tremendously improved from years past. Vietnamese music has been able to widen its reach to audiences nationally and also overseas. There are many famous underground artists such as Andree Right Hand, Big Daddy, Shadow P (all featured in a popular song called Để anh được yêu) or Lil' Knight and countless others who have risen to fame through the Internet. In addition, there are also other singers that have gone mainstream such as M4U, Hồ Ngọc Hà, Bảo Thy, Wanbi Tuấn Anh, Khổng Tú Quỳnh, Radio Band, etc. There are also amateur singers whose songs have been hits in Vietnam such as Thùy Chi. These singers tend to view singing as a hobby, therefore not being labeled as mainstream artists. Overall, the quality of recording and the style of music videos in Vietnam has improved a lot compared to the past years due to many private productions and also overseas Vietnamese coming back to produce a combination of Western and Vietnamese music.

Rock and heavy metal[edit]

Introduced by American soldiers, rock and roll was popular in Saigon during the Vietnam War. This genre has developed strongly in the South and has spread out over the North region after the rise of Bức Tường in the 90s. For the last 10 years, metal has become more mainstream in Vietnam. Unlimited, Ngũ Cung, Microwave, and the Black Infinity are the current top Vietnamese metal bands in the 21st century.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^"Southeast Asian arts Vietnam". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 23 July 2008. p. 36. 
  2. ^Vietnam - Page 95 Audrey Seah, Charissa M. Nair - 2004 "There were three categories: dai nhac (dai nyahk) or great music, chamber music for the entertainment of the king, and ritual music- accompanying important ceremonies such as the one to ensure a good harvest. The Ly kings, in particular "
  3. ^International Workshop on Nhã Nhạc of Nguyễn Dynasty: Huế court music - Page 201 Huế Monuments Conservation Center, Ủy ban quốc gia Unesco của Việt Nam, Viện nghiên cứu âm nhạc (Vietnam) - 2004 "... by stricter rules. That was the rule in using "Great music" and "Small music". Great music ..."
  4. ^Tư liệu âm nhạc cung đình Việt Nam - Page 103 Ngọc Thành Tô,ön (Mounting the Esplanade-simple version), -Dàngdàn kép (Mounting the ..."
  5. ^Asian Pacific quarterly of cultural and social affairs - Volumes 3-4 - Page 67 Cultural and Social Centre for the Asian and Pacific Region - 1971 "Đại nhạc (literally : great music) or Cd xuy Đại nhạc iW&^k.1^), composed ... Tiểu nhạc (literally :small music) or // true Tiểu nhạc (UYrB%:) : small group of silk or stringed instruments and bamboo flute. Ty khanh: ... Traditional Vietnamese Music 67."
  6. ^Vietnam Institute of Musicology[permanent dead link] Court Music "He with the profound knowledge about Vietnamese Court Music not only taught the performance skill of such repertoires as Liên hoàn, Bình bán, Tây mai, Kim tiền, Xuân phong, Long hổ, Tẩu mã extracted from Ten bản ngự (Small music); Mã vũ, Man (Great music) but introduced their origin and performance environment."
  7. ^International Workshop on Nhã Nhạc of Nguyễn Dynasty: Huế court music - Page 152 Huế Monuments Conservation Center, Ủy ban quốc gia Unesco của Việt Nam, Viện nghiên cứu âm nhạc (Vietnam) - 2004 "What is Dai nhac (great music) and what is Tieu nhac (small music)? On basis of terminology and canon-like document, there are some notions for our deep concern: - Nha nhac is a genre of music used by Chinese emperors in sacrifices to ..."
  8. ^Selected musical terms of non-Western cultures: a notebook-glossary - Page 132 Walter Kaufmann - 1990 "Dai nhac (Vietnam). "Great music." Ceremonial music of Temple and Royal Palace performed by a large instrumental ensemble. The instruments of a dai nhac ensemble were: 4 ken, ..."
  9. ^Visiting Arts regional profile: Asia Pacific arts directory - Page 578 Tim Doling - 1996 "Court orchestras were also organized into nha nhac ('elegant music') and dai nhac ('great music') ensembles and court dances were defined as either van vu (civil) or vo vu (military). Confucian music and dance was presented at court until ..."
  10. ^Nguyễn, Trâm (7 July 2011). Nguyen Van Quy - A Biography. Hanoi: Nguyễn Trâm. p. 38. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  11. ^John Shepherd Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world: Volumes 3–7 - 2005
  12. ^Phạm Duy. 1975. Musics of Vietnam
  13. ^Olsen
  14. ^Popular Music of Vietnam 5 Sep 2010 – Popular Music of Vietnam: The Politics of Remembering, the Economics of Forgetting by Dale A.Olsen Routledge, New York, London, 2008

External links[edit]


Performance of Ca trù, an ancient genre of chamber music from northern Vietnam, inscribed by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009
Blind artists performing xẩm
Songwriter Phạm Duy (1920–2013)

Creedence Clearwater and the Vietnam War

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For those of us born at the end of the Vietnam War, much of the music from that time period can remain hidden unless we make a point of seeking it out. Radio is replete with “classic rock” format stations, but like all other forms of mass media, listeners are relegated to a passive role, with little means of changing play lists that more-often-than-not overstate the effect of the British Invasion to the detriment of American rockers. For every Led Zeppelin garnering large amounts of airplay, there is a Creedence Clearwater Revival that is overlooked. The problem with British rockers from the era of the Vietnam War is one of credibility: any British musician (such as John Lennon) who tried to protest the Vietnam War sounded contrived at best. How could a British group object to a war in which they had no direct stake? These attempts at protest by foreign bands against the Vietnam War have the appearance of an orchestrated effort to “get on the bandwagon” and sell albums by using the charged feelings of the citizenry toward an unpopular military action. While this is a cynical view, it is one that nevertheless deserves consideration.

To the persistent individual, though, there is a body of music in existence that merits regard. It is powerful music written by the youth of America, youngsters who did have a stake in the Vietnam War. There can be little question about the origins of the power which American protest music conveyed: those who wrote such music lived each day with the real knowledge that they were losing friends in, and could possibly be forced themselves to go to, Vietnam. One such group, Creedence Clearwater Revival, made its contribution to this genre near the end of the Vietnam War.

CCR sprang up in the San Francisco Bay area, the product of a music scene that was rife with talent. Creedence, however, never particularly sounded like that scene; indeed, the early efforts of the band caused many to question the group’s origin, believing that the foursome was a product of the “bayou regions of Louisiana”1 The musicians who made up the band - John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook, and Doug Clifford - had been working on their style since the late 1950s under several different monikers. Primarily responsible for the Creedence sound was John Fogerty, the major creative force in the band, with vocals that “were to Creedence what Jim Morrison’s were to the Doors,”2 and a musical approach Fogerty himself described as a swamp thing:

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"Various people had nice sounding voices, but the ones that always got me [were] the guys with the really high edge to their voices. . . . that’s what I wanted to be able to do. But you can’t do that when you’re 16 or 17, there’s just not enough moxie. . . . It’s not so much copying Little Richard . . . . But sort of doing your own version of Little Richard doing a song he would never attempt because you have a different musical focus. . . . A vocal kind of like Little Richard and a song like a swamp thing -- I don’t know, that’s what came out as being me."3

It wasn’t until 1969 that the band moved into socially conscious song writing with the release of the LP Willy and the Poorboys. Societal friction was treated in the single Effigy, while the burdens of the Vietnam War were considered in Fortunate Son. The latter of the two has become a true American rock classic, not only for what it says, but for the way it conveys its message. According to bassist Stu Cook,

"I thought John did a brilliant job of making his speech without getting up on a soapbox and lecturing. There’s an unwritten caste system, if you will, in this country. People don’t talk about it much. Birth has a lot to do with it, power has a lot to do with it. Those who don’t, don’t, and those who do, do."4

Fortunate Son arguably became CCR’s greatest classic, and definitely one of John Fogerty’s greatest vocal achievements. The song “mirrored the sentiments of young rockers who feared being drafted and sent to the unpopular and escalating war in Vietnam.”5 It was featured in the movie Forrest Gump, making a powerful visual and auditory statement, one which accurately represents what the song meant. In the movie, Gump had neither power nor birth, and therefore found himself on a helicopter heading to Vietnam to fight in a war which he did not understand. Many real soldiers found themselves in Gump’s shoes, living what was written in Fortunate Son:

Some folks inherit star-spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war
And when you ask them how much should we give
Ooh, they only answer more, more, more, Lord
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate one

Furthermore, during the 1980s and 1990s, the message of Fortunate Son has proven timeless: several John Doe infantrymen were sent to Vietnam while people with “star-spangled eyes” were able to avoid military service. For example, during the Vietnam “conflict,” where was Dan Quayle, or even more importantly, where was Bill Clinton?

In 1970, CCR released Cosmo’s Factory, their greatest selling album of all time, which continued the socially conscious musical style begun with Poorboys. The first single released off the LP, Travelin’ Band, had as its B-side a tune which would later lend its title to a Nick Nolte film, Who’ll Stop The Rain. Whereas Travelin’ Band was a lighter, somewhat autobiographic song, Who’ll Stop the Rain seemed to carry the message of protest to a new level:

I went down Virginia
Seekin’ shelter from the storm
Got caught up in the fable
I watched the tower glow
Five Year Plans and New Deals
Wrapped in golden chains
And I wonder, still I wonder
Who’ll stop the rain?

These lyrics demonstrate a thinly veiled disgust for the American establishment. The allusion to Virginia brings to mind the powerful elements of government in this nation, including, for example, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency. “Five year plans” refers to a Russian economic reform plan instituted by Joseph Stalin in the late 1920s, while “New Deal” refers to the United States’ version of economic reform created by Franklin D. Roosevelt in answer to the Great Depression. The American government is not the only nation deviating from the right path; instead, all governments are going astray. These bureaucracies are led by corrupt people with corrupt ideas. Who’ll Stop The Rain was released in January 1970, at a time when President Richard M. Nixon was declaring “I will not be the first President of the United States to lose a war.”6 Instead of easing the Vietnam conflict as Nixon had promised during the election, the American leadership was increasing the scope of the conflict in the hopes of destroying the North Vietnamese. While the youth of America looked to the government to end to war, the administration of America looked to the youth to continue the war.

In April 1970, the single Up Around the Bend was released with the flip-side Run Through the Jungle. CCR has many times been described as a “garage band’s band” that did material which any amateur musical group could easily learn and perform. As Bruce Springsteen said about CCR in his induction speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “Creedence wasn’t the hippest band in the world, but they were the best.” Jungle is an exception to CCR’s simplistic style. The song was also one of Tom Fogerty’s favorite Creedence tunes:

"My all-time favorite Creedence tune was Run Through the Jungle. . . . It’s like a little movie in itself with all the sound effects. It never changes key, but it holds your interest the whole time. It’s like a musician’s dream. It never changes key, yet you get the illusion it does."7

The opening of Jungle is replete with sound effects that provide the listener with the feeling of being in the jungle where anything and everything could jump out at you. The lyrical content of the tune convey a similar feeling:

Whoa, thought it was a nightmare
Though its all so true
They told me “don’t go walkin’ slow”
The Devil’s on the loose
Better run through the jungle
Better run through the jungle
Better run through the jungle
Don’t look back to see

Thought I heard a-rumblin’
Callin’ to my name
Two hundred million guns a-loaded
Satan cries “Take aim!”
Better run through the jungle
Better run through the jungle
Better run through the jungle
Don’t look back to see

This song is not even thinly veiled in its contempt for the people who allowed the Vietnam Conflict to continue. In Jungle, these people are equated with the consummate symbol of evil - Satan. The reference “two-hundred million guns” gives the image of a massive battle being waged. The carnage is controlled by the one powerful being “Satan cries ‘take aim!’” Of course, there is also the title of the song itself. Any song titled Run Through The Jungle released during some of the bloodiest years of the Vietnam War could only have one jungle in mind. It can be easily argued that this was Fogerty’s most direct, powerful statement against the war, possibly only rivaled by Fortunate Son.

CCR’s protest music had one great difference from other music in the same genre. In a CCR tune, the government was the culprit, not the army grunt in the front lines of Vietnam. These people had no choice - unlike Dan Quayle or Bill Clinton. Viewed in this light, Fogerty’s lyrics are prophetic. The American government was the focal point of protest, and remains so today. Men such as Quayle and Clinton, who would not assist their country in Vietnam, a duty which would require them to put their lives on the line, would later aspire to provide service to their country in another capacity, one in which they might require such a sacrifice from the young people of today. Certainly Quayle and Clinton were not the only people to “dodge the draft;” countless thousands did the same thing. However, those same thousands never had the audacity to believe they could be vice president or president later.

In one of CCR’s last singles, released in March 1972, four months before the group disbanded, Fogerty takes one last look at Vietnam, but more importantly, one prophetic look at the end of the 1960’s spirit of protest and the beginnings of the “me-generation.” This single, Someday Never Comes, was included on the LP Mardi Gras, CCR’s last album.

First thing I remember
Was askin’ Papa why
For there were many things
I didn’t know
And daddy always smiled
And took me by the hand
Saying “someday you’ll understand”

Well I’m here to tell you now
Each and every mother’s son
You’d better learn it fast
You’d better learn it young
‘Cause someday never comes.

The time and tears went by
And I collected dust
For there were many things
I didn’t know
And daddy went away
He said “try to be a man
And someday you’ll understand”
Well, I’m here to tell you now
Each and every mother’s son
You’d better learn it fast
You’d better learn it young
‘Cause someday never comes

And then one day in April
I wasn’t even there
For there were many things
I didn’t know
A son was born to me
Mama held his hand
Saying “someday you’ll understand”

Well, I’m here to tell you now
Each and every mother’s son
You’d better learn it fast
You’d better learn it young
‘Cause someday never comes
Ooh, someday never comes

I think it was September
The year I went away
For there were many things
I didn’t know
And I still see him standin’
And tryin’ to be a man
And I say “someday you’ll understand”

Well, I’m here to tell you now
Each and every mother’s son
You’d better learn it fast
You’d better learn it young
‘Cause someday never comes

Fogerty begins Someday Never Comes with the notion that, as a youngster, he looked to his elders to provide answer they would not give. As the song evolves, the reason becomes clear: the elders have no solutions. As Thoreau said, “I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything to the purpose.”8 In Fogerty’s lyric, the adults tell the youngsters “someday you’ll understand,” an often-used evasion. The tune conveys a sense of hopelessness at never understanding, at never having the answers. Throughout the song, Fogerty never finds the resolution he seeks. In a somewhat prophetic ending, Fogerty becomes part of the lie he has fought against, when he writes “And I say, ‘someday you’ll understand’.” Fogerty has no answers from his own journey, and is reduced to using the same evasion he was given; hence, he becomes part of the lie. This lyric is significant in that it foreshadows the end of the 1960’s “can-do” spirit. The people responsible for making the movement tick would simply become part of the establishment of duplicity and deceit they had fought against for so long. Regardless of whether Fogerty intended these lyrics to be prophetic is of no consequence; that such an assimilation took place is.

With the beginning of 1970s, Rock and Roll changed. This change had less to do with music than with society itself. America entered a stage of materialism, an era which continues even now. Undoubtedly, the American public was also simply fatigued from the exertions of the 1960s, a decade marked by social upheaval and change. There can be no question that times have changed, and tastes with them. John Fogerty released two albums in the mid-1980s, Centerfield and Eye of the Zombie. The former was more successful monetarily, but it lacked any of the real social commentary people would expect from Fogerty. Zombie, however, was brimming with social criticisms that fell, for the most part, on deaf ears.

As for the three remaining members of CCR, Doug Clifford and Stu Cook have formed a new group, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, a CCR tribute band with a John Fogerty sound-alike. Unfortunately, John Fogerty has taken legal action against this project, stating that Cook and Clifford are misleading the public as to band personnel, causing the Creedence faithful to believe Fogerty is part of the group and that the original CCR has reformed. John Fogerty is set to release a new compact disc , Blue Moon Swamp, and begin a world tour in 1997. Bob Fogerty, John’s brother and assistant, reports that Fogerty’s new offering will tend more toward the sound of Green River. According to various sources the possibilities of a CCR reunion are slim.

CCR has been somewhat overlooked as a major force in rock music. This is not to say that there are not millions of fans all over the world. Indeed, CCR is even on the information superhighway, including one home page on the Internet that is authored by a fan in Finland. These CCR faithful, according to rock critic John Grissim, are individuals:

"who will cheerfully bet their next paycheck, their first born, and two first round draft picks that, song for song, Creedence Clearwater Revival was, and is, the gutsiest, the most exciting, most joyous, tastiest, no-bullshit, kick ass rock and roll band in the history of pop music."9

It is difficult to find anyone who does not have at least one CCR song they can tolerate. CCR was solid rock and roll, not flashy, not fancy. It was straightforward, honest, and real. As rock critic Greil Marcus wrote,

"Creedence believed that the music they made would always sound different from -- in opposition to -- whatever else was in fashion at the time, whatever they time might be. They were right. Were Green River on the radio today it would jump right off it, something else entirely. . . . It’s rock and roll with no excuses given, no questions asked. There has never been much of that around, and never more of it collected in one place."10

Marcus was almost correct: it’s not “were Green River on the radio today;” Green River is on the radio today.

1 Irwin Stambler, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989), 152.

2 Ibid.

3 The Global Satellite Network, 60’s Legends.

4 Ibid.

5 David P. Szatmary, Rockin’ in Time: A Social History of Rock and Roll (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1991, second ed.), 191.

6 Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History (New York: Viking Press, 1983), 577.

7 60’s Legends.

8 Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

9 John Grissim, Chronicle Volume 2 (Liner Notes).

10 Greil Marcus, Chronicle, Volume 1 (Liner Notes).

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