“ Xam” – A Tale of Vietnamese Folk Music

Nga Do
“Xam” is known in Vietnam as  folk music usually performed by blind street singers to earn their living. As it originated from the working class and poor people, “Xam” has become an intellectual part of the commoners’ cultural life. Its most distinctive trait lies in the simplicity and popularity of its lyrics and the earthliness but profoundness of daily life in the songs’ lyrics, which often narrate daily-life stories, satirizing and criticizing severely the social evils while highly praising education and humanitarian values. 

Ha Thi Cau artist. Photo by Hoangvantoanajc
Therefore, “Xam”  doesn’t care so much about costumes and stages like other types of traditional arts. “Xam” singing can be performed anywhere, on any street or corner where large numbers of people pass. It is so simple that anyone can sing some verses to express their inner feelings on life. 

After a long period of decline, “Xam” has been recently revitalised through a program titled “Tale of ‘Xam’ ” performed by master artists of Vietnamese traditional music, especially People’s Artist Thanh Hoai and People’s Artist Xuan Hoach, who have fully and vividly revitalised the life and soul of “ Hat Xam” (Xam singing) through their beautiful vocals and talented musical skills.

People’s Artist Xuan Hoach confided, “We performed in such a simple way without accompaniment in order to express the soul of “Xam” performed by our forefathers. Within this space, we only need to sing softly, the audiences could feel the sounds, even the smallest”.

Perhaps, for that reason, the effect of the “ Tale of Xam” could be seen through the joy of audiences and their enthusiastic talks with artists.

Telling us about the idea of organising the music night of “ Tale of Xam”, Vu Ngoc Tram, owner of the French villa and the Manzi Art Space, said, “ Manzi wishes to create an opportunity for everyone to enjoy genuinely traditional music of the old days. Like it or not  is the feeling of each person, but being Vietnamese, one must at least once know and experience traditional music”.

With her  desire to create chances for young people to experience traditional culture even only once, Tram has built Manzi into a cultural space, a popular address for not only Hanoians but also visitors to the capital city of Hanoi.

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