Originated in the Red River delta and dating back to the 16th century, Chau Van is a Vietnamese folk music that is classified as ritual music since it is performed in the practice of “len dong” (Vietnamese version of East Asian spirit mediumship). To be more exact, Chau Van is a kind of incantation music, used to hypnotize the person who has been estranged from spirits via the combination of religious atmosphere, rhythms and lyrics.
With the fine combination of trance singing and dancing, the religious music is widely used for appreciating the merits of beneficent deities and worshipped national heroes, who are incarnated by mediums. While the musical air of Ca tru performance is melodious and pleasant, that of Chau Van is opposite, more boisterous and sensational with sound of drums and rhythmical changes of singers’ voices according to changes in characters’ moods and changes in figures incarnated by mediums themselves.
In Central Vietnam, Chau Van is more prosperous than that in the North with melodies lying in many different pentatonic and rhythms being far more complex. There is another form of Chau Van, called “hat tho”, which is not directly related to “len dong” practices but also involved in the act of worship with the melodies being slower and containing little contrasting pitch and stress. Through Chau Van, it is not only the beauty of Vietnamese folk music is subtly displayed but also religious beauty of Vietnamese rituals and customs.