Dozens of people gather to play guitars and sing at Ly Thai To Square in downtown Hanoi on Sunday afternoons.

About 20 of them play the instruments while others mingle and sing or clap hands to the rhythms. Most are students with some older people, children and even curious foreigners.

Such is their exuberance, they don't need a stage, amplifier or lighting system to liven up the park and divert attention from the noise of vehicles around nearby Hoan Kiem Lake .

That's the normal scene in the square every week, as an off-line activity of guitar learners in the popular forum

When it rains, they might move to a nearby octagonal pavilion.

"I took the initiative for a travelling performance from composer Tran Tien during 1980s," said Tran Tri Hieu, initiator of the website

"Tien used to travel everywhere with his guitar.

"The notion of travelling minstrels has been turned into street performances. Our website members meet at local public places to play music and sing. We have groups in Hanoi , HCM City , Nha Trang and Can Tho.

"We can't travel far but we can spread the passion by playing music and singing in the streets."

Hieu said the number of forum members has hit 70,000, including Vietnamese and foreign people in and outside the country.

The first street show in Hanoi attracted only 10 people, Hieu said. The second got up to 200 guitarists.

They could be students or adults who were practising guitars, members or non-members. Each only needed a guitar and a passion for playing and singing in the street.

The music they played may range from student songs to patriotic and love songs.

Doan Nhat Tan, student from the Industrial Economics and Technique College , said she joined a year ago and has been coming to the Sunday off-line meeting for few months.

"I love community activities," she said, "It's funny, I can do more than I expected. Before joining the club I didn't think I will be able to play guitar, let alone sing."

Trinh Quang Huy, another college student, said he felt relaxed at the meeting.

"This is where we can exchange experiences," he said, "Everything here is so simple and interesting."

Retiree Luong Xuan Hoan, who lives near the lake, often joins the crowd.

"They make me feel younger, thinking about my days as a student," Hoan said.

Many tourists and passersby stop to take photos.

The forum is expected to develop playing the guitar among students at college dormitories all over the city, Hieu said. Also planned is a national contest for street guitarists. It has already received encouragement from veteran composers like Nguyen Cuong and Truong Qui Hai.

"I have put the idea to Vietnam Television and Radio's Voice of Vietnam and I'm waiting for a response," Hieu said.-VNA