Thanks to reader Linh and Jason Gibbs, we know know that this is a piece featuring the famed Phước Cương troupe. They are performing an example of cải lương, a “classical” type of Vietnamese theater music played on traditional instruments, and it is an excerpt of a piece known in English as “Sentencing the Precious Consort Pang.” The record dates from the mid- to late 20s. According to Linh’s description, cải lương sets lyrics over older, classical Vietnamese songs. The songs that are played in this excerpt are Khoc huang thien, Ngu Diem, and Thien Tuong.
Beka was sold to Columbia in 1926, although the Beka imprint seemed to last well into the 1930s. The company made at least 140 recordings in Vietnam, and had a considerable presence in Asia throughout the early part of the century, having begun to record there since ca. 1906, when they first landed in Hong Kong.
The singers are accompanied by a bamboo flute (either the sao, or the tieu), a bowed instrument (probably a dan gao or dan nhi), and a plucked lute of some kind.
Issue Number: B 20107
Matrix Number: 92380