The Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage, chaired by Awadh Ali Saleh Al Musabi (United Arab Emirates), identified Vietnamese Ca tru singing an intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding during its recent 2009 session in Abu Dhabi.
Ca tru is a complex form of sung poetry found in the north of Viet Nam using lyrics written in traditional Vietnamese poetic forms. Ca trù groups comprise three performers: a female singer who uses breathing techniques and vibrato to create unique ornamented vocal sounds, while playing the clappers or striking a wooden box, and two instrumentalists who produce the deep tone of a three-stringed lute and the strong sounds of a praise drum.
Some Ca trù performances also include dance. The varied forms of Ca trù fulfil different social purposes, including worship singing, singing for entertainment, singing in royal palaces and competitive singing. Ca trù has fifty-six different musical forms or melodies, each of which is called thể cách. Folk artists transmit the music and poems that comprise Ca trù pieces by oral and technical transmission, formerly, within their family line, but now to any who wish to learn.
Ongoing wars and insufficient awareness caused Ca trù to fall into disuse during the twentieth century. Although the artists have made great efforts to transmit the old repertoire to younger generations, Ca trù is still under threat due to the diminishing number and increasing age of practitioners.