Vọng cổ (Vietnamese: [vâwŋmˀ ko᷉], Hán tự: , "nostalgia") is a Vietnamese song and musical structure used primarily in the cải lương theater music and nhạc tài tử chamber music of southern Vietnam.[1] It was composed sometime between 1917 and 1919 by Cao Văn Lầu (performing name Sáu Lầu "sixth Lầu"), of Bạc Liêu Province in southern Vietnam.[2] The song achieved great popularity and eventually its structure became the basis for numerous other songs. The tune is essentially melancholy in character and is sung using Vietnamese modal inflections.[3][4][5]


The term vọng cổ is used to mean:[6]

  1. the particular mode, equivalent to the oán nuance of the nam mode;
  2. the original song Dạ cổ hoài lang, by Cao Văn Lầu from around 1919
  3. any piece in the vọng cổ mode which employs the pitches of the original vọng cổ song as structural cadential points.


  1. ^ Trainor, John (1975). "Significance and Development in the Vọng Cổ of South Vietnam." Asian Music, vol. 7, no. 1, Southeast Asia Issue (1975), pp. 50-57.
  2. ^ Trainor 1975
  3. ^ Dale Alan Olsen Popular Music of Vietnam: The Politics of Remembering Routledge 2008 "vọng cổ" pp2, 129, 267
  4. ^ Craig A. Lockard Dance of Life: Popular Music and Politics in Southeast Asia Page 19, 1998 "It was initially entitled "In Hearing the Sound of Night Drums I Am Thinking of My Husband"; the title was later changed to "Longing for the Past": Since the day you, my husband Received the king's sword and left on duty I am constantly looking ."
  5. ^ James R. Brandon Theatre in Southeast Asia Page 76, 1967 "This is Vong Co, a ravishingly beautiful love lament written by the musician Cao Van Lau in 1920. When cai luong troupes began to sing Vong Co around 1927, both the song and cai luong became enormously popular. Vong Co is the most "
  6. ^ Peter Manuel Popular Musics of the Non-Western World: An Introductory Survey Page 202 - 1990 "Thus, the term vọng cổ denotes: (1) a particular mode, equivalent to the óan nuance of the nam mode; (2) a particular song, dating from around 1919; and (3) any piece in the vọng cổ mode which employs the pitches of the original vọng cổ song as structural cadential points. The last and most general sense of the term is perhaps the most common; commercial cassette labels, for example, generally cite the two composers of Western music (tan nhac) and vong co', that is, Vietnamese music. In most cases the vqng co' is preceded by a nói loi. Although un- metered, this is usually sung in even note values, in a syllabic style. Often it begins in a different mode — most typically, an anhemitonic pentatonic scale — and then modulates ..."