When we were babies, our mom and our grandmom used to sing the Vietnamese lullabies for us. It was just not to lull us to sleep but also was the way they connected to our heart. At that time, we could not understand the meaning of the lullabies but we could feel the warmth and sweetness of our mom and our grandmom. And we grew up with these lullabies…
Lullaby songs are a sort of folk music often heard in Vietnam, especially in the countryside. They are used not only to lull small children to go to sleep but also to express human feelings such as homesickness, wife missing her husband...
Vietnamese lullabies often consist of two or four six-to-eight meter lines. They are usually based upon a characteristic frame of melody, and use slow, free rhythms. They also contain many inseted words such as "à ơi", "ầu ơ", "ơ", "hỡi"...
As the function of a lullaby song is to make the child slowly fall into sleep, the song is quiet, the tones stretched and melodious.
The melody of lullabies vary from regions to regions.
In North Vietnam, lullabies are sung in five notes, do-re-fa-sol-la. For example,
“My child, sleep well,
So mom can carry water to wash the elephant’s back,
If anyone wants to see, go up to the mountain
To see Lady Trung, Trieu riding the elephant’s golden backs”
The song from central Vietnam lies only in three notes, la-re-fa, with nonsense syllables "ơ" inserted:
“Baby, sleep well,
So mother can go to the market to buy an earthen saucepan,
If she goes to the southern market,
She will buy you a long and bent sugar cane”
In Southern Vietnam, most of the lullabies begin with the word "ví dầu" (imagine
“Imagine you’re walking on a board-bridge fastened with nails,
It is hard as walking on an unstable bamboo bridge”
Although the habit of lulling children in Vietnam nowadays is gradually less popular than in the old days, these lullabies never disappear but become a holy part in every Vietnamese soul who was brought up by maternal love and sweet songs.