TRẦN QUANG HẢI : ABOUT PROF.DR. TRAN VAN KHE (life honorary member of the ICTM)


ABOUT PROF.DR. TRAN VAN KHE (life honorary member of the ICTM)


+ DATE OF BIRTH : Juty 24th 1921

+ PLACE OF-BIRTH : Binh Hoa Dong, Mytho (Tien Giang) (Viet Nam)

+ NATIONALITY : Vietnamese,


– 1958 : Ph. D. University of Paris-Sorbonne Dissertation : Vietnamese Traditional Music

– 1951 : Diplome de I’lnstitut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciencs-Po : International Relations)

– 1943 : First Certificate of Medicine (Medical College : University of Hanoi)

– 1942 : Certificate of P.C.B. (Physics- Chemistry-Biology) University of Hanoi

– 1941 : Baccalaureat (Philisophy) Saigon

– 1940 : Baccalaureat (First Part) Saigon


Professor Tran Van Khe is one of the greatest masters of the traditional Vietnamese music. Born into a family with four generations of musicians, he was taught the musical tradition of the family by his paternal aunt Tran Ngoc Vien and his maternal uncle Nguyen Tri Khuong, having lost his parents at a very early age. Professor Tran Van Khe is a Doctor in Musicology ; he carried out research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (C.N.R.S.), was a teacher at Paris-Sorbonne University (1958-1988) , and is Honorary Member of the Conseil international de la musique (Unesco). His scientific research along with his activities in traditional music (participation in numerous festivals, several recordings edited with Ocora, l’Unesco and A.C.C.T.) have enabled him to receive many distinctions and prizes from prestigious universities, academies and international institutions. He is able to play many Vietnamese instruments : dan kim or dan nguyet (moon-shaped lute), dan tranh (sixteen stringed zither), dan co or dan nhi (two-stringed fiddle), dan ty ba (pear-shaped, four stringed lute) and the trong nhac, ceremonial drum. He knows how to recite poems and sing in traditional styles of the North and the South.

Professor Tran’s expertise includes all Asian music, particularly Indian, Persian, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic musical traditions. Having lived in Paris for about 50 years, and traveled world wide, lecturing and performing, he played the  key role in introducing Asian music into the western world. In the past 50 years, he supervised  a  big number of Ph. D.dissertations  and taught several thousands of students all over the world.


– Ex-Director of research in the French National Center for Scientific Research

– Ex-Professor of Ethnomusicology, University of Paris Sorbonne

– Member of the “Board of Directors” of the Unesco-IMC Project: The “Universe of Music, A History” (UMH)

– Ex-Chairman of the Scientific Board of the International Institute for Comparative Music Studies and Documentation (Berlin)

Professor of Vietnamese Traditional Music, Special Adviser of the Scientific Board, Private University of Binh Dương, Province of Binh Dương * Viet Nam)

Member of the Scientific Board of the Institute of Musicology of VietNam

Musicology : Institut de Musicologle de Paris ( 1951-1958)


* Research and teaching

– 1989 : (January-March) Visiting Professor, University of the Philippines, Quezon City, Manila

– 1988 : (January-Septemter) Fulbright Scholar, Visiting Professor University of Hawaii at Manoa

– 1985 : Visiting Professor at the University of Western Australia, Perth

– 1984-1987 : Director of a Seminar on “Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)

– 1983 : Visiting Professor at University of Hawaii at Manoa : Summer Course USA

– 1981 and 1979 : Visiting Professor at Listz Academy of Music, Budapest Hungary.

– 1979-1987 : Guest Professor at the “Intercultural School – in Venice, ltaly

– 1975-1985 : Guest Professor at the Institut Catholique de Paris Liturgic Music : Buddhist Music in Vietnam

– 1973 : Visiting Professor at The Faculte de Musique, University of Montreal, Canada

– 1972 : Guest Professor at the University of Southern Illinois Carbondale, USA

– 1968 : Guest Professor at the UCLA, Los Angeles, USA

– 1966-1988 : Lecturer, Professor, University of Paris-Sorbonne
Ethnomusicology, Adviser for Students preparing Master’s thesis and Doctoral dissertations on Asian Music (more than 40 students)

– 1959-1988 : Professor, Directeur d’Etudes, and President of the “Centre d’Etudes de Musique Orientale”

– 1960-1988 : Researcher in Musicology, French National Center for Scientific Research

– 1960-64 : Attache de recherche

– 1964-68 : Charge de recherche

– 1968-72 : Maitre de recherche

– 1972-88 : Directeur dc recherche

– 1977-1987 : Every year Visiting Professor at The Institute of Musicology in Viet Nam

Two Lectures on Asian Music and on Methodology in Ethnomusicology, Several hundreds of lectures in several Universities in the world, namely Berkeley, Maryland, Baltimore County USA, (1988) Central Conservatory of Beijing, Conservatory of TianJian, Xian (People’s Republic of China 1987), Antatanarivo, Madagascar (August 1985), Kunitachi College, Japan (Julyl 985), Wellington, New Zealand / November 1984), Venice, Italy (March 84-April 85) Harvard, USA (June 1982) Conservatory Tchaikovsky, Moscow, USSR/May 81) National Institute of Music of Algeria (August 1980), National Center for the Performing Arts, Bombay, India (Sept. 1979), Teheran, Iran (June 1976) Conservatory of Saigon, Buddhist University of Van Hanh, Catholic Institution Taberd, Centre Culturel Français, VietNam-USA Association, (South VietNam August 1974), Sau Paulo, Brasil (July 1974) Shiraz.lran (August 1972) Sangeet Natak Akademi, Nev Delhi India (May 1961), Traditional Musicians Association, TaiPei, (April 1961) Ueno University, Japan (April 1961)


 Member of

– Société Française de Musicologie

– International Musicological Society

– Société Française d’Ethnomusicologie

– Society for Ethnomusicology

– Society for Asian Music

– International Society for Music Education

– Société des Gens de Lettres (France)

– International Folk Music Council (and after 1983)

– International Council for Traditional Music (Ex-Vice President now Life Honorary Member)

International Music Council (Ex-Vice President, now Life Honorary Member)


– 2013 Bagde of Ho Chi Minh City (Emerite citizen of Ho Chi Minh city)

– 2011 Phan Chau Trinh Award

– 2011 San Francisco – Ho Chi Minh City City Sister : Life Time Award in Vietnamese Tradionnal Music

– 2005 Đao Tan Award

– 2003 Glory of Vietnam

– 1999 French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques

– 1999 Medal of Labor (First Class)  (Viet Nam)

– 1999 Doctor (HC) in Ethnomusicology, Moncton University (New Brunswick – Canada)

– 1994 Koizumi Fumio Ethno musicological Prize (Japan)

– 1995 Correspondent Member of The European Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters

– 1991 Officier  de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres  (France)

– 1988 Full Bright  Scholarship

– 1985 Japan Foundation Scholarship

– 1981 UNESCO IMC Music Award

– 1975 Doctor in Music (honor) –  University of Ottawa  (Canada)

– 1974 1st Class Medal of Letters and Arts (Viet Nam)

– 1974 1st Class Medal of Culture  (Republic of Viet Nam)

– 1970 Grand Prize from French Music Academy of French Records  Record : VIET NAM 1. BM LD 2022 

– 1969 Schallplatten Prize for Record VIET NAM 1. BM LD 2022  (Germany)

– 1960 Grand Prize from French Music Academy for the Record of :  La  Boîte De Musique NOLD 565

 1949 2nd Prize of the International Competition on Folk Music Instruments ; in the Youth Festival of Budapest in Hungary.


– 27 LP and CD records

– 1 film on Indian Dhrupad singing tradition, 4 tapes on Asian Music (GRM Groups de Recherche Musicale French Radio)

– 4 video tapes on the Chinese Sheng (mouth organ), Qin (Chinese 7 stringed board zither), Vietnamese Dan  Tranh  (16 stringed board zither) Audio Visual Center University Dauphine

– 4 books on Vietnamese Traditional Music (in French, German, and Italian languages)

– 1 book on Water puppets in Viet Nam

– 187 articles (in French, English languages) on Asian Music, Vietnamese Music, and musicological matters.

14 books, 140 articles (in Vietnamese) on autobiography, researches on Vietnamese traditional music and musicological matters


Has participated in more than 180 Internatinal Congresses, Conferences, Symposia, and Music Festivals. (The lists of publications and the International Conferences could be sent on request)

Participating international organisations : Member of more than 10 Associations of Musical Studies in France, USA and many other European and Asian countries. Member of Standing Board and Vice President of the International Council of Traditional Music and the International Music Council belonging to UNESCO. Significantly contributing to various works to research, publish and publicize major traditional music in Asia, especially Vietnamese, organized by the International Center for Comparative Music Studies and Documentation (Berlin) as a member, and for 8 years as President of the Scientific Council. Since 1988, life honorary member of the International Music Council  belonging to UNESCO. Special advisor for the Council in subjects related to traditional music of Asian countries.


Especially he will stress on his activities as a member of the IFMC and later ICTM.

In 1958, he took part in the IMC conference on the Universe of music, at the UNESCO House. He met there several musicologists and ethnomusicologists : Samuel Baud-Bovy, Willard Rhodes, Walter Wiora, Marius Schneider. Paul Collaer. They appreciated his paper and woud like to invite him to joint the IFMC (Internationnal Folk Music Council…. They introduced him to Dr. Maud Karpeles and he became member of the IFMC in 1960 after being elected member of the executive Committee of the  IMC. He had not much time for the IFMC because of his heavy work in the French CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), in the IMC, in the CEMO (Centre d’Etudes de Musique Orientale). But he attended regularly the general Assembly of the IFMC, he often met many members of the IFMC to exchange experiences in their personal researches and sometimes to collaborate with them in certain topics of research : Folk and traditional musics, music theatre in Vietnam with Paul Collaer ; Tone languages in China and Vietnam with Marius Schneider, ethnomusicology with Claudie- Marcel Dubois.

He wrote a few articles for the Journal of the IFMC 1966

1/ La musique populaire au VietNam. Ses attaches avec la musique de tradition savante ou musique rituelle (pp 2-4)

2/ Journal of the IFMC 1963

La musique Vietnamienne traditionnelle (Review)

3/ Le pentatonisme est il universel ? Journal of the IFMC 1958.

In 1961, while attending the general Assembly of the IFMC in Jerusalem, he took part in the international concert organised on that occasion by playing Vietnamese traditional music. Prof Dr. Zolten Kodaly was in the audience. At the interval, Dr. Kodaly congratulated him on his performance and, wanted to meet him some day to discuss about pentatonic scales.

After that meeting, he had an opportunity of meeting Dr. Kodaly in Budapest and they had a very interesting exchange of experiences on Pentatonism.

In VietNam when the late Professor Lưu Hưu Phươc organised a festival of traditional music in the whole VietNam, he  invited Dr Eric Stockman, President of the ICTM to come to VietNam as a special guest. Dr Stockman could not accept the invitation… because his heath was not good and he could not make a long air travel. Dr. Stockman asked him to go to VietNam as a Vice president of the ICTM. He was warmly welcome by the organising committee.

In 1984, the general Assembly of the ICTM took place in Tunis capital of Tunisia – He came to Tunis in a double capacity,as Vice President of the ICTM and the special guest on the Festival of Arabic traditional music …

In 1960 he became member of the IFCM

1978 he was elected member of the executive committee of the IFMC

1981 he was elected vice President of the IFMC ICTM since that date. He did not resign his position of vice President.

In 1987 Prof Kishibe Shigeo and him suddently saw no longer their names on the list of the members of the executive committee without receiving any notification about that.

PRESENT ACTIVITIES IN VIETNAM since he has returned to live in VIETNAM from 2004

In 2003, he was invited to teach Vietnamese Traditional Music at the Private University of Hung Vuong (Ho Chi Minh City) to give several lectures on Asian Musical  Traditions at the Institute of Musicology of Viet Nam (Ha Noi).

Since 2003 up to the present time, he has actively participated in the cultural life of the whole VietNam.

He attended the Symposium on Court Music in Viet Nam organised by the Center for the Preservation of Hue relics, and together with Mrs Noriko Nakamura from Unesco, helped the Vietnamese scholars to achieve the file on Nha Nhac, Court Music  in Hụe to be presented to Unesco for the nomination as a master piece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. In 2003, Nha Nhac Hue Court Misic was recognized by Unesco as a masterpiece of Oral and intangible Heritage of Humanity. The Vietnamese Ambassador near Unesco, organised a series of concerts in France and in Belgium to introduce Vietnamese Nha Nhac to the European audience  and asked him to be the MC of those concerts. He accepted the proposal and was happy to do that work.

In 2005, he  was invited by the    Minister for Foreign Affairs , and the Minister of Culture and Information of the Vietnamese Government to be a special adviser, to help the Vietnamese specialists to prepare a file on the Ca Tru (special vocal art of North VietNam)

At the same time, UNESCO invited him to write an evaluation of the file on Gongs on the High Plateaux in VietNam.

He compared the Gongs ensembles from VietNam with the gamelan from Java the Gong from Bali, the Kulingtan from the Philippines and finally proposed Unesco to recognized the “Cultural area of gongs from the High Plateaux in VietNam” as an oral and untangible heritage representing humanity.

He has been for several years, from 2006 to the present time a special adviser of the scholars in charge to prepare the file of Quan ho from Bac Ninh (2006), of the Ca tru (2007).

Recently, he played an active part in the preparation of the file on the Don ca tai tu from Nam bộ (2011)

The People committee of Ho Chi Minh city thanked him on his presentation of Vietnamese traditional Music and particularly of the Don ca tai tu (entertainment music from the south) throughout the world and gave him the title of “Emerite citizen” of Ho Chi Minh city and the sum of thirty millions of Vietnamese đồng.

In the South, he published :

– an autobiography in 5 volumes

– a book on Vietnamese traditional music written for the common people

– a book “Những câu chuyện từ trái tim” (Tales from my heart), one of the best sellers in VietNam.

The Phuong Nam (films and records Prodution),  made a DVD about my cultural activities in VietNam.

He has been a guest lecurer for several High schools and Unirersities in VietNam

The main themes of his lectures are :

– Vietnamese gastronomy

– The use of Vietnamese lullabies as prenatal music

– Good behaviour in the family, at school and in society

– Vietnamese traditional music Vietnamese culture nowadays

* 28 workshops on Ca tru, ca Hue, Don ca tai tu (entertainment music on 3 parts of VietNam

– Hát Bội miền Nam (Traditional music theatre, Southern tradition)

– Hát Cải lương (Modernized  music theatre from the South)

– Hát bài chòi (regional music theatre from Quảng Ngãi)– Nhã nhạc cung đình Huế (Royal music Huế court music)

– Chầu văn (shaman music from the North)

– Rỗi bóng (shaman music from the south)

Professor Tran Van Khe (1921-2015), known as the master of traditional Vietnamese music, died at the age of 94 early on Wednesday June 24th , 2015, in HCM city, district Bình Thạnh .He fought for his life for nearly a month in a hospital in HCM City.

Professor Khe, a veteran musicologist, academician, writer and teacher, as well as performer of traditional music, died at Gia Dinh People’s Hospital. He was suffering from various illnesses of the lungs, heart and kidney, doctors said.

His friends said the legendary musicologist had been well-prepared for his death, and had left a will describing in detail how he would like his funeral to be organised.

In the will, he said he wanted to be laid to rest following Buddhism funeral rites. He also wanted a band, consisting of his friends and students, to perform special traditional Vietnamese music at the funeral.

As per Vietnamese tradition, friends and relatives often bring offerings for a deceased person at a funeral. Professor Khe wanted the money for this to be used for setting up a fund or an award in his name for outstanding researchers of traditional Vietnamese music.

The professor said his home should be used as a commemorative house, where people could come to read all the books and documents he had collected.



Executive Board member of the ICTM

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