Ca Tru: vocal music from Northern Vietnam


Featuring performances by the Hanoi Ca Tru Thai Ha Ensemble.

Ca tru is a fascinating type of vocal music from Northern Vietnam. It has a long and distinguished history, and its roots probably date back to the sixteenth century. Today, the ca tru ensemble consists of a female singer who accompanies herself on a small bamboo percussion instrument (phach); an instrumentalist who plays a three-stringed lute (dan day); and a drummer who beats a small “praise drum” (trong chau). 

The best performers of ca tru today are the Hanoi Ca Tru Thai Ha Ensemble. This ensemble is made up of the singers Nguyen Thuy Hoa and Thanh Hoai, the lute player Nguyen Manh Tien and the drummer Nguyen Van Mui. Nine video examples of performances by the Hanoi Ca Tru Thai Ha Ensemble can be downloaded from this page.

This page accompanies an article by Barley Norton published in the journal Asian Music, 2005, Vol. 36, Issue 2, pp. 27-56, called "Singing the Past: Vietnamese Ca Tru, Memory and Mode". A pdf file of this article can be downloaded through libraries that subscribe to the electronic database Project Muse. The research for the article was made possible by a  small grant awarded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. For further information contact
The Phach, a small bamboo percussion instrument
The Dan Day, A three-stringed lute
The Trong Chau, a small "praise drum"


Video Excerpts

The video excerpts can be downloaded as .mov files from the links below. You may need to download a VLC media player to view these videos.

These examples consist of a full performance of the piece Bac Phan (Example 1) and eight short instrumental phrases (Example 2-9). Nguyen Thuy Hoa is the singer featured on the video examples, and she is accompanied by Nguyen Manh Tien on the dan day lute and Nguyen Van Mui on the “praise drum”. 

Video 1 - Bac Phan 
Video 2 - Kho song dan
Video 3 - Kho rai
Video 4 - Kho giua
Video 5 - Kho xiet
Video 6 - Kho doc 1 
Video 7 - Kho la dau 
Video 8 - Kho doc 2 
Video 9 - Drumming


Transcription of Video 1 - Bac Phan (PDF), transcribed by Barley Norton

Further Information

If you would like to buy a CD of ca tru performed by the Ca Tru Thai Ha Ensemble on the Nimbus Records label (2001) please go to the Nimbus website at

If you would like to read more about ca tru, you can order a copy of Barley Norton’s "Ca tru: a Vietnamese chamber music genre" (1996) by contacting Phong Thuyet Nguyen at Details of this publication can also be found at the Institute for Vietnamese Music website at

© The Hanoi Ca Tru Thai Ha Ensemble and Barley Norton.
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