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[Video] 2016 Documentary 'Xẩm Đỏ' Is an Ode to Vietnam's Last Xẩm Singer

Ha Thi Cau was born in 1928 and has been singing xẩm, a type of Vietnamese folk art often performed by blind artists and accompanied by đàn nhị or đàn bầu, since she was eight years old.

Cau learned the folk performance by following her parents from one market to another singing xẩm for a living and by taking lessons from Chanh Trung Mau, a xẩm master. Despite receiving many awards and honors including the People’s Artist and Emeritus Artist, VOV’s Certificate of Merit, Dao Tan Award, etc, Cau spent most of her life living in hardship and poverty. She passed away on 3 March, 2013 at the age of 85.

One year before Cau's death, filmmaker Luong Dinh Dung finished Xam Do (Red Xẩm), a 35-minute documentary about her life and art edited down from a total 1,200 minutes worth of footage, according to VnExpress. The documentary was shot in an observational mode without the filmmakers' narration. Although the film was finished in 2012, it was not released until September 2016.

According to Dung, he didn't have plans to release the documentary at first, however, he changed his minds after a group of young xẩm enthusiasts approached him wanting to see the film. "They sang for me and I was moved," he said.

Watch a snippet of the documentary below or the complete feature on Co Dong's Facebook page:

[Photo via Co Dong's Facebook video

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