Lên đồng (to mount the medium)
Lên đồng otherwise known as “hầu đồng” or “hầu bóng” (to mount the medium) is a ritual in which practitioners become mediums for various deities, who take over their bodies and carry out actions in the human world.
The practice, also referred to as the shaman dance, is indigenous to the Vietnamese folk religion called Đạo Mẫu, or the worship of mother goddesses. During the main ritual, which may last up to seven hours, the len dong practitioner incarnates a series of different deities and spirits, changing into a different set of costumes for each incarnation.
Once the deity has taken over the practitioner’s body, they may perform a dance or attempt several dangerous stunts such as walking on embers or piercing a metal rod through the medium’s cheeks. The process is normally aided by musicians and singers of ‘chau van’, or invocation singing, who will perform invocation songs to induce a trance in the practitioner, preparing them for incarnation.
A Lên Đồng practitioner may incarnate several deities in one session, with the accompanying Chầu Văn music changing depending on which deity is being incarnated. When the dance is finished, the audience is able to approach the still-possessed practitioner to make offerings, petition the deity for favors, or to have their fortune told.
Ca trù arts
Ca Trù is also known as Hát đào, originated from a form of entertainment in royal palace, Ca Trù flourished in the 15th century in Vietnam and was branched out into being performed in communal houses, inns and private homes.
To perform Ca Trù, there should be at least three performers: a female singer is responsible for the vocals while playing the “phách” (an instrument made of wood or bamboo that includes two elements, a bamboo platform and small wooden sticks to beat on the platform); a musician plays the “Đàn dây” (a long-necked lute with three silk strings and 10 frets); a drummer (often a scholar or the author of the song) beats the “Trống Chầu” (a praise drum).
While the singer is the main performer and the musician is the supporter for the singer, the drummer plays the role of a spectator or an assessor of the show. The way he beats the drum will show whether or not he like the performance. However, in reality, he plays according to the rhythm of the “phách”. Ca trù is also literally translated as tally card songs as in the past, to pay for the performance, audiences were supposed to give the female singer some bamboo cards; the number of cards corresponded with the amount of money the singer would receive.
In the 20th century, Ca trù nearly lost its popularity as it was accused of being involved with prostitution and the disregard of women as the female singer often had affairs with the audiences; nonetheless, this bad reputation stems from of the convention of the feudal society that men were allowed to have many wives, not the art and profession itself.
Today, Ca trù has drawn much attention from the local and the world as well; it is recognized as the Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2009.
Chầu Văn is a religious form of art which combines singing and dancing and used for extolling the merits of beneficent deities or national heroes. The instrumental music in Chau van plays a very important role either in emphasizing important passages or creating contrastive effects.
Normally, the main instruments that you see in one chau van performance are moon-shaped lute (đàn nguyệt), accompanied by a rhythm from the striking of a piece of wood or bamboo (phách), drum (trống) and gong (chiêng). Sometimes, the 16-stringed zither (đàn tranh), flute (sáo), eight-sound band (Đàn Bát Âm) are also used in the recitation of certain poetry.
The dress worn by Chầu Văn singers is based on the cult of the four palaces - a red robe symbolizing for the heavenly palace, a yellow robe - the underground palace, a green robe - the musical palace and a white robe - the aquatic palace. The headgear and the style of the robe are closely related to the supernatural being honored in the act of worship. Over time, this style of costume may vary but rule about the colors has remained unchanged.
The lyrics in Chầu Văn singing were strongly emphasized. The psychic not only has a good voice and knows how to play musical instruments but he also knows how to give compliments at the right time and in the proper situation.
The art of Chầu Văn singing originated in the Red River Delta and dated back to the 16th century, later spread to the whole country. It has also adopted the essential beauty of folk songs from the uplands and highlands of the North, Center and South.
In the North, a ceremony always begins the invitation to deities to come. The master of the ceremony reads a petition and says some incantations to the underworld. After sending the invitation to the spirits, a person - frequently a woman - who sat on a mat in front of the altar, will become the speaker for the spirits.