Southern Vietnamese folk music
Traditional Vietnamese music is highly diverse and syncretistic, combining native and foreign influences, and influences from Vietnam's ethnic minority groups. Throughout its history, Vietnam has been most heavily influenced by the Chinese musical tradition, as an integral part, along with Korea, Mongolia and Japan. The former Indochinese kingdom of Champa also exerted some influence (albeit more minor when compared to China) on Vietnam's traditional music.
Đờn ca tài tử is a musical art that has both scholarly and folk roots. It developed in southern Việt Nam in the late nineteenth century. The repertoire of Đờn ca tài tử is based on 20 principal songs (bài Tổ) and 72 classical songs (bài nhạc cổ). These songs consist of ‘skeletal melodies’ which are used as the basis for improvisation and variation. Đờn ca tài tử performers express feelings and sentiments by improvising, ornamenting and varying the ‘skeletal melody’ of pieces and the main rhythmic patterns.
Đờn ca tài tử is played on a variety of different instruments including the kìm (moon-shaped lute), cò (two-stringed fiddle), tranh (16-string zither), tỳ bà (pear-shaped lute), song lang (percussion), bầu (monochord) and sáo (bamboo flute), and the violin and guitar which were adapted. The guitar used by tài tử artists has a deep, hollowed-out finger board, enabling musicians to play special ornamentation characteristic of Đờn ca tài tử.