Ca tru is “an esoteric form of expression that is not for everyone,” says Frommers. The “haunting sound” of this traditional Vietnamese chamber music is “mesmerizing and uplifting” and was recognized by UNESCO in 2009 as an “Intangible Heritage in need of preserving.” Concerts are held at the Thang Long Ca Tru Theatre, an “intimate restored house in the Old Quarter” three evenings each week, reports Lonely Planet.
Ca tru is sung in a “dramatic, full-throated manner” always by a woman, explains Dan Tham at CNN. “Song themes range from love and attraction to the beauty of Hanoi's West Lake,” and has drawn comparisons, “perhaps tenuously,” to the history of geisha performances in Japan. After the communist takeover of northern Vietnam in 1945, the genre was branded as being “tainted by prostitution and French colonial influence,” but over the past three decades, ca trù has “enjoyed a modest revival thanks to renewed support from the government and efforts of a few passionate musicians.”