Chinese traditional music
Music For The Older

Favorite Music Types of Elders Around Asia

From time to time, music has been an important part of life and is proven to have various effects on human life at all age including seniors and elders. Everyone loves music and of course, each individual has their owned taste in music genres and artists. Differences in music preference are partly due to generation gap and personality; parents properly have different choices in music types and songs from their kids’. We all know young people current favorite music from daily news, radio, Internet, but have you ever wonder what kind of music people at your seniors love to listen to, or what music genres were popular during their time? This article will travel around Asia and provides some answers for you!


To know what types of music Chinese elders usually listen to, there is a need of some history facts. From 1949 to 1990s, revolutionary songs are nationally promoted by the state for political purposes. Under Cultural Revolution period, revolutionary music is the only acceptable genre; therefore, make this type of music become the most popular one. Thus, some revolutionary songs are still remained in seniors’ head, being a part of their lives.

Chinese traditional music

Traditional music forms are also favored by Chinese elders. Chinese traditional music is usually played on traditional musical instruments. The instruments are divided into categories based on the material which are bowed strings, woodwinds, plucked strings and percussion. The most famous traditional music is Han fork music due to the dominant population of Han ethnic group (92% Chinese are Han people) in China. Han fork is performed in many ways including singing, dancing, talking and opera. The singing must be well accompanied with instruments to create harmony and melody for the song in order to deliver the poetry-like feeling, express the soul of music and connect audience with the performers in the most beautiful form.

Chinese opera also a popular entertaining form among Chinese seniors and this form of art has long history, presents from Song Dynasty to present. The music empathizes on string instruments and percussion accompany with high-toned vocals. This beautiful art is sophisticate and elegant, displays long wealthy historical value of China in the finest form.


If you ever have a chance to visit and attend in a Japanese festival, you will see how Japanese preserve and maintain their cultural values, not only by seniors but everyone at every ages and music is one of important value of Japanese culture. In Japan, there are three types of traditional music which are theatrical, court music (Gagaku) and instrumental music. Some music types such as Kabuki, Gagaku have their owned festival where people perform and educate young generation about traditional music.


Theatrical music has various forms of drama in which music is the most significant element of the performance. There are two main forms which are Kabuki and Noh. While Noh music is mostly based on drum sound accompanying with flute, Kabuki highlights dancing and singing, incorporating other instruments like Shamisen (a Japanese traditional three stringed instrument resemble guitar or banjo). To perform Kabuki, performers (mostly male) have to wear specific clothes and make-up and the performance will last entire day, giving audience escaping feeling from the modern world.

Traditional pop music is also preferred by elders for its popularity in 1970s. The combination between Japanese traditional music with Western elements brought the new trend in the postwar period. This westernized music (called Kayokyoku) adds diversity in music industry with many different types such Dodompa, Enka.

Western classical music and jazz have strong presence in Japan from 1990s up to now. Although it is not Japanese traditional music, classical music and jazz are loved by Japanese seniors for beautiful melody and musical instrument harmony that can provide relaxation and enjoyment for the audiences.


Traditional music art is popular among Vietnamese elders. Vietnam is divided into three main regions which are North, Middle and South. Each part of the country has its owned favorite traditional music and has developed those art forms into their signature culture value. If you have the chance coming to Vietnam, you will see the culture diversity with unique figures and values in each region.

The North of Vietnam is the culture capital with long history of nation establishment. Since all the traditional lifestyle and cultural values are still represented in people daily routine, the most popular music among adults are traditional music art including Cheo, Quan Ho, Ca Tru and Ho. Quan Họ (alternative singing) are Vietnamese folk music performed by two group of male and female singers alternatively taking turn. Female group will start the performance by issuing their “challenge phrase” for the male group to response with “matching phrase” based on topic and melody of the challenge phrase. Quan Họ is usually performed in traditional festivals and recently recognized as the Intangible Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO in 2009.

Quan Họ

Different from the North, Cai Luong (Reformed Theatre) is widely loved by seniors living in the South. Cai Luong is not traditional art form as it was born during First World War (1914-1918). This music form is still a popular music type until now with many famous artists and shows. Cai Luong has an urban feature with instrument accompany. Each play will have their story and artists will deliver the story by singing lines with great melody and sensational voice. The play’s topics are usually resemble real life activities, situations or romantic love stories, mostly from the past rather than modern life. Because of this aspect, elders love listening to Cai Luong and many TV, radio programs are designed particularly for Cai Luong.

Vietnamese Bolero is an imported Latin music in 1950s and became popular in the South of Vietnam from then. This music genre accompanies Bolero melody (sometimes Rhumba, Slow or Habanre,..) with traditional folk with repeated and slow rhythm. Bolero lyrics are written in rhyme, easy to sing along or memorize and the lyrics are close to daily life. Since the melody is very catchy, bolero songs are preferred by most of Vietnamese seniors in the South and across the country.

Blanca (Author)