Vietnam and The Arts

Mosaic mural in Hanoi. Photo © Dana Filek-Gibson.
Mosaic mural in Hanoi. Photo © Dana Filek-Gibson.

Vietnamese visual art draws upon an interesting variety of mediums and influences, thanks to its past relationships with China and France. Particularly over the last century, traditional handicrafts like lacquer painting and enamel have been combined with both Asian and European ideas to create uniquely Vietnamese artwork. While many of the masterpieces displayed in forums like the local fine arts museum are prime examples of traditional Vietnamese artwork, both Hanoi and Saigon have growing art scenes and plenty of up-and-coming artists whose work is shared in local cafés and smaller galleries.

Traditional Vietnamese music is often closely linked with theatrical performance: cheo, a centuries-old satirical form of theater, uses music to communicate its messages, as does cai luong, a similarly operatic form of music from the south that had its heyday during the 20th century. For most locals today, famous revolutionary composers such as Trinh Cong Son, one of Vietnam’s most prolific songwriters, and Pham Duy remain a favorite among many Vietnamese, both old and young. Their songs are regular fixtures during karaoke sessions.

Beyond traditional music, the younger generation is following its Asian neighbors, eager to develop a V-Pop phenomenon similar to Japan or Korea, with plenty of doe-eyed young songstresses and flashy music videos making the rounds on the Internet, though Korean pop stars still tend to be favored over local artists. Music-related television shows like Vietnam Idol and The Voice of Vietnam, knock-offs of their American counterparts, are also popular, as is the famed program Paris By Night, a much-loved musical revue filmed in France, Canada, and the United States that is technically banned by the Vietnamese government but still enjoys widespread popularity both in the country and among the Vietnamese diaspora.

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