Traditional Vietnamese singer dies at 85

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Ha Thi Cau, Vietnam's eldest singer of xẩm, a Vietnamese music that dates from the 14th century, died at 85.

Ha Thi Cau, a legendary singer of a slowly dying traditional Vietnamese music called Xẩm, has died.

Cau was 85 and was the oldest known living Xẩm singer until she passed away on Sunday due to illness associated with old age.

According to her family, Cau fell sick before the Lunar New Year fell on February 9 and had been unable to eat or drink ever since.

Her health condition gradually worsened until she became paralyzed, lost the ability to speak and finally passed away.

Cau, known to many artists and music lovers as one of Vietnam's greatest cultural treasures, starting singing Xẩm when she was eight years old.

She was the eldest of the last singers of the art form, which originated int he 14th century, and hit its pinnacle of popularity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when artists performed Xẩm at public places like markets, in trolley cars and on the streets.

Despite being illiterate, Cau composed a great number of well-regarded poems and Xẩm songs. 

She had been born to a Xẩm singing family in the northern province of Ninh Binh.

She stopped singing after her last show at the Xẩm Hà Thành Club (a Xẩm club in Hanoi) on January 4, 2011, due to poor health and old age.

At the event, she was one of 10 Xẩm singers that received certificates of merit from the Center for Preservation and Promotion of National Culture.


Xẩm's melodies are borrowed from various kinds of folk music. The singers often play the Ä‘àn bầu (single-stringed instrument) or Ä‘àn nhị as they sing.

But the art, like several traditional folk music traditions, has gradually fallen into oblivion as younger generations turn to modern music forms.

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