Ca Tru, which was granted UNESCO Cultural Heritage status, is said to have originated in the 11th century, but developed in the 15th century as religious chants and court entertainment throughout northern Vietnam. This genre of chamber music adapted to historical changes by gradually becoming part of village entertainment and eventually finding itself confined to private homes.
Throughout its evolution, Ca Tru was at some point stereotyped as 'music for opium dens'. Sang without the benefit of electronic amplification and open to the musicians' improvisation in interpreting the melodies, Ca Tru was usually reserved to very selective audiences as it cannot accommodate a larger venue such as an opera house. Notorious performer and director, Ms. Hue, who also teaches at the Hanoi conservatory, has been determined to revive and promote this valuable Vietnamese cultural heritage through her Ca Tru Thang Long performance group.
The unique art performance of Ca Tru has been known by different names throughout its 1000 years of existence. When the performance served regal and sacred rituals it was called Hat Khuon. Later, it was called Hat Hang Hoa and was performed at weddings, banquets and friendly get-togethers. Ca Tru was also known as Hat Nha Tro, which translates roughly to 'singing or dancing while pulling funny tricks'. Under French rule, the popularity of Ca Tru waned, but today it is enjoying a renaissance of sorts in Hanoi.