Bringing ancient songs to the public

Every Sunday night, local residents and tourists in Việt Trì City, in the northern province of Phú Thọ, lose themselves in melodious folk song at Văn Lang Park.

Cultural revival: After four years of xoan singing being listed as in urgent need of protection, Việt Nam submitted a report to UNESCO last year stating that xoan singing has seen a revival, thanks to the great efforts made by Phú Thọ Province. — Photo

Nguyễn Thị Phương, chairperson of Nông Trang Ward Xoan Singing Club, has never missed a show.

The performance by Nông Trang Xoan Club starts at 7.30pm. Ancient melodies like Trống Quân – Đón Đào, Xe Chỉ May Vá and Ngựa Bạch are performed in front of hundreds of attentive audience members.

“The club has 20 members who are 40 to 70 years old,” Phương said, “We are very happy to perform our favourite songs.”

A frequent audience member, Nguyễn Thị Hiền, commended the shows.

“I think the show will help popularise this folk art with the local community.”

Xoan singing originated in the province. It is practised in front of communal houses at spring festivals. It is said to have appeared about 4,000 years ago, during the time of the legendary Hùng Kings.

Xoan singing was organised, not only to entertain villagers, but also to pray for good weather and harvests, praise the landscape, and to depict daily life in rural areas.

According to Nguyễn Thị Lý, director of Việt Trì City’s Culture House, city authorities originally assigned a house to organise xoan singing on a weekend in August.

Since then shows by 14 local xoan clubs have taken place at the park.

Many young people have flocked to the events.

“Before I rarely had a chance to listen to folk singing,” said Hà Anh Hiếu, 20. “Now I can watch the singing and dancing every weekend. I often come here with my friends, as well as going on cinema dates.”

The provincial authorities aim to gradually promote xoan singing as a tourism product.

UNESCO listed xoan singing as part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent protection in 2011.

After four years of being listed as in urgent need of protection, Việt Nam last year submitted a report to UNESCO stating that xoan singing has seen a revival, thanks to the great efforts made by Phú Thọ Province.

In 2010, there were 13 xoan singing clubs with nearly 300 members in Phú Thọ. After concerted effort, by 2015 there were as many as 30 clubs across the province, with 1,000 regular members and hundreds of others interested in joining.

A number of promotional activities were carried out by elder xoan singers, aimed at popularising xoan songs to the younger generations.

Between 2012 and 2015, 51 individuals were honoured as Distinguished Xoan Artists.


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