Cheo Singing: A Treasure of Vietnamese Culture
Cheo singing, a traditional form of Vietnamese theatre, has been cherished as a valuable cultural heritage for centuries. With its enchanting melodies, vibrant costumes, and captivating stories, Cheo singing is not only a form of entertainment but also a reflection of the Vietnamese people’s history, customs, and beliefs. In this article, we will delve deeper into the world of Cheo singing, exploring its origins, unique characteristics, and significance in Vietnamese culture.
Cheo Singing: A Treasure of Vietnamese Culture
Cheo singing is a traditional musical form of Vietnam that dates back to the 10th century. It is a unique combination of music, poetry, dance, and drama that originated in the northern provinces of Vietnam. Cheo singing is usually performed in the countryside during festivals, village fairs, and other important occasions. The songs are based on the daily life of farmers, expressing their love, happiness, sorrow, and struggles. Cheo singing is characterized by its soft and melodious tunes, accompanied by traditional musical instruments such as the monochord, bamboo flute, drum, and cymbals. This art form not only reflects the cultural values of Vietnam but also preserves the country’s history and traditions.
The origin of Cheo’s singing
Cheo singing is a traditional theatrical art of Vietnam that developed strongly in the northern and central regions with a strong ethnic identity. From ancient times, Cheo was considered a form of festive stage performance, often performed at festivals or special occasions. The language used in Cheo is multifaceted, rich in metaphors, and expresses personal feelings.
Cheo art was formed in the 10th century under the Dinh dynasty (King Dinh Tien Hoang). The capital of the country at that time was Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh), which is also considered the homeland of this theatrical art form. Ms. Pham Thi Tran is considered the mother of Cheo. Later, Cheo developed rapidly and spread throughout the Dai Co Viet territory, including the northern and central regions of Vietnam today.
Initially, Cheo’s singing developed mainly from folk music and dance. Short stories and anecdotes enriched Cheo’s plays, making them longer and more meaningful. Chinese opera influenced Vietnamese Cheo art starting in the 14th century. The ban on Cheo performances in the palace by King Le Thanh Tong during the 15th century led to its growth in rural areas as an essential aspect of spiritual nourishment during festivals and celebrations for the Vietnamese people.
In the period from the 18th century to the end of the 19th century, Cheo art continued to develop strongly and reached its peak with many famous plays. Cheo has been brought onto the professional stage from the 20th century until now. It has become a more refined and civilized form of Cheo, featuring new performances of folk tales.
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Characteristics of Cheo singing
Cheo singing is a traditional form of musical theater in Vietnam that features a unique combination of music, singing, dance, and theater. Some of the characteristics of Cheo singing include:
Traditional themes and stories:
Cheo often features stories and themes from Vietnamese history, folklore, and daily life. Many Cheo performances are based on traditional folktales or historical events.
Cheo is accompanied by a range of traditional Vietnamese instruments: such as the dan bau (monochord), dan nhi (two-stringed fiddle), dan tranh (zither), and a range of percussion instruments.
Distinctive melodies and vocal techniques characterize Cheo’s singing. It often employs vibrato, trills, and other ornamentations to create its unique sound.
Dance and movement:
Dance and movement are integral to Cheo performances, with dancers using various gestures and poses to express the characters’ emotions and actions.
Costumes and makeup:
Cheo performers wear elaborate costumes and makeup, with different colors and styles used to signify different characters and roles.
Overall, Cheo singing requires a high level of skill and training to perform due to its highly stylized and sophisticated form of traditional theater. Vietnamese cultural heritage continues to embrace as an essential part, and people worldwide widely celebrate it.
Classification of Cheo singing
Cheo singing can be classified into four main types based on its performance characteristics and cultural context:
Cheo San Dinh:
Performances of this traditional type of Cheo singing take place in village communal houses, pagodas, and temples. The performance style is simple, with the singers and musicians sitting on a mat and a small curtain hanging behind them. The main prop used in this type of Cheo is the fan.
Cheo Cai Luong:
This is a modernized form of Cheo singing that emerged in the early 20th century, before the August Revolution of 1945. Cheo Cai Luong combines modern music and dance to create a contemporary style, yet still preserves traditional Cheo performances.
Cheo Chai He:
Performers typically present this sub-genre of Cheo singing during the 7th lunar month or at funerals and other ceremonial occasions. The performances usually include a variety of elements such as Giao Roi, Nhi Thap Tu Hieu, Mua Hat Cheo Thuyen Can, and Mua Hat Ke Thap An. The program often concludes with Quan Ho singing.
Cheo singing evolved to meet contemporary tastes while retaining its cultural identity. This resulted in a new type of Cheo singing as Vietnam integrated into the global community. While Cheo performers have experimented with various styles and instruments, the traditional melodies and rhythms remain integral to the music.
The elements that make up a Cheo performance
Cheo is a traditional form of musical theater in Vietnam that originated in the 10th century and has evolved over the past 1000 years. The following elements compose a typical Cheo performance:
Its rhythm and melody played on traditional instruments like the monochord, bamboo flute, and two-stringed fiddle, characterize Cheo music.
A group of singers performs Cheo songs accompanied by music. The lyrics of Cheo’s songs usually tell stories about love, family, and daily life.
The performance of Cheo dance is an essential component that expresses the emotions and actions of the characters in the story. The movements are often slow and graceful and are based on traditional Vietnamese dance.
Cheo actors use facial expressions, gestures, and body language to convey the emotions and personalities of the characters they portray. The Cheo acting style often features exaggeration and humor.
- Costumes and makeup:
Cheo costumes are colorful and elaborate, reflecting the social status and personality of the characters. Actors use makeup to enhance their facial expressions and emotions in Cheo performances.
These elements come together to create a unique and vibrant form of theater that is an important part of Vietnamese cultural heritage.
Where can tourists watch cheo singing?
In the broader context of Vietnamese culture, Cheo singing is a priceless treasure of the nation. Cheo singing, with over 10 centuries of history, has become an integral part of Vietnamese cultural life. Its beautiful melodies and expressive performances have enriched Vietnam’s cultural heritage and hold immense potential for tourism development. It is important to preserve and promote this art form for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.