Ca Tru is a Vietnamese religious music genre which belongs to tradition in northern Vietnam; mother hand ca tru is also such as a sung genre of chamber music. Already in the 15th century ca tru was played for ceremonies and early 20th century ca tru was cracked down on the village communal houses where it was performed, quickening its demise. The musical knowledge had to remove to the big city and it was played for entertainment “hat chơi”, in singing houses and private homes.
By the 1950s the genre had become associated with disrepute (opium, girl serve wine and misunderstandings about ca tru singers). From the late 1950s to the late 1980s, ca tru performances were rare, and a lot of the musical knowledge was lost. Despite renewed public interest and a spate of recent revitalization initiatives, there are still few regular performance contexts. The few remaining competent ca tru musicians are mostly very elderly. In the countryside, the ceremonial part of the ca tru repertoire, “hat cua dinh”, was still cherished for festivals and ancestral work-ship ceremonies.
Giao Phường Ca Tru Thang Long is a voluntary, non-profit group of ca tru musicians founded in 2006. The group is based in Hanoi. It has about 15 members, most of them aged between 10 and early 30s. Giao Phường Ca Tru Thang Long was set up by two elderly master musicians, Nguyen Thi Chuc and Nguyen Phu Đẹ, with Phạm Thị Huệ, who is a teacher of traditional Vietnamese music at the National Academy of Music in Hanoi.
The term “Giao Phường” refers to the old system of “guilds” that supported ca tru artists up until the early twentieth century. These days, groups like Giao Phường Ca Tru Thang Long are the most common way for young people to learn ca tru. For this reason, the work of Giao Phường Ca Tru Thăng Long is very important in keeping ca tru alive for future generations to explore and enjoy.
Giao Phường Ca Tru Thăng Long has grown to be one of the most active of ca tru clubs in North Vietnam, especially in teaching the genre to young people, performing publicly, increasing audience engagement, and generally raising the profile of the genre.