Last night, I walked around Hoan Kiem Lake, mingling with people celebrating Vietnam’s National Independence holiday. The lake was cordoned off, so there were no motorbikes or automobiles. Street traffic outside the lake area was congested and intense, with a wild onslaught of motorbikes!
Xẩm Spiritual Folk Singing
Over the past several years Hat Xam – a.k.a blind buskers singing – has “revived and spread strongly in the spiritual lives of many Hanoians”. Xẩm performances began occurring on weekends in the walking space around Hoan Kiem Lake.
Ha thanh means the city of Hanoi, and the Xam Ha Thành and Đình Làng Việt groups are popular with Hanoians. Audiences include foreigners and locals “immerse themselves in the melodies of Xẩm songs, which are sometimes joyous, other times painful”.
There were various artists performing around the Lake, and I got a unique introduction to Xẩm spiritual folk singing. Hanoi’s popular Xẩm singer Đào Bạch Linh was performing with other folk musicians at Ngoc Son Temple.
Xẩm is a very special “Vietnamese genre of ancient folk music.” Historically, it was “considered a beggar’s music played by blind people for centuries”.
“Instead of working in the theatres, a Xẩm singer’s stage is the street, the market, the foot of a banyan tree, the gate of a village, or a yard.” Jenna Duong Hanoi Times
Xẩm performers use a “Dan nhi or two-string guitar and their own enchanting voices”. Xẩm “singers of yesteryear conquered the hearts of village folk, and, much like Europe’s wandering minstrels, survived entirely on the generosity of those who enjoyed their performances”.
The evening was a unique and enjoyable experience!