The three-stringed lute in Vietnam, the Dan Day, has been played for generations. It used to have silk strings but these days they are nylon. It is primarily an instrument of North Vietnam and played as an accompaniment to Ca Tru singing which has been recognised for its cultural value by UNESCO.
‘’Dan’’ in Vietnamese means a stringed instrument and ‘’day’’ means bottom. Relatively recently, the electric bass guitars in Vietnam have taken the shape of the Dan Day. You may well come across both the Dan Day and the modern ‘’version’’ either the former in Northern villages and the latter in cities like Hanoi. Hanoi is a regular starting point for a Vietnam tour package, with its airport having numerous international flights and the Vietnam visa available on arrival.
The Dan Day has a long neck with four straight sides as the body of the instrument. It is an instrument played exclusively by men and probably dates back to around the 15th Century when many different styles of music were developing. Women have a role in the performance because it is they that do the singing of hat cuadinh and hat a dao songs.
When the strings of the Dan Day are slackened, the tone of the instrument changes; it will be lower and some say, more refined. It is a relaxing sound with players often seated together as the lady sings. With the recognition that UNESCO has given to Ca Tru singing, the Dan Day is certain to continue to feature in its original form for years to come.
Music and its instruments in Vietnam make a holiday in Vietnam a must for those interested in the different forms of music in the world. The Dan Day plays its part in that subject well.