Chau Van was created during the Tran Dynasty between the 13th and 15th century. The rhythmic trance singing occurs during rituals to honor the Mother Goddesses and communicate with other gods. It is performed mostly at temples.
The genre has adapted folk songs from the highlands of the north, center and south of Vietnam. Nam Dinh currently has more than 500 people involved in Chau Van. Half of them perform the trance rituals, while the rest are singers and musical instrument players.
The most famous Chau Van singers are Dao Thi Phong and Hoang Thi Luong of Y Yen district and Bui Van Dong of Xuan Truong District.
"Ritual singing is dedicated to the Genies. The songs are about characters of legend, like Mother Goddess Lieu Hanh and the Mountain Lady, as well as real heroes like Tran Hung Dao, who helped ensure a stable and prosperous life for the Vietnamese people," said Emeritus Artist Kieu Du, Director of Nam Dinh Province’s February 3 Cultural Center.
Nam Dinh Province has more than 350 historical relics dedicated to worshiping the Mother Goddesses, including Phu Day complex, which encompasses dozens of relic sites.
The Phu Day festival, from the 3rd to the 8th of the third lunar month, features 30 ritual singers performing at the Tien Huong palace and 20 singers performing at the Van Cat shrine.
"Ritual singing competitions have been held at Phu Day festivals over the years in an effort to preserve the folk art for future generations. We’ve also organized ritual singing and trance ritual classes for young people," said Emeritus Artist Kieu Du.
Modern Chau Van songs have been written to praise national development achievements.
"Only through being inherited and adapted to modern society can ritual singing be preserved sustainably. Artists like us have created modern ritual songs versions with the rhythms of Chau Van," added Kieu Du.
Nam Dinh currently has 6 clubs that practice and promote ritual singing. These clubs play an important role in promoting Chau Van, says singer Thanh Lan, who was born in Nam Dinh Province.
"I have been familiar with Chau Van since I was very little. Every time I sing, I am totally into my performance and do my best to portray the character in the song," said Lan.