Since April 2014, the Vietnam National Museum of History has been in charge of preserving the UNESCO's certificate of recognition of intangible cultural heritage in Vietnam for 5 practices including: The cultural space of the gongs in the central highlands of Vietnam; Quan Ho Bac Ninh folk song (love duets); Ca tru ceremonial singing; Nha Nhac Vietnamese court music and Don Ca Tai Tu (music of the southern provinces of Vietnam).
Nha Nhac is a form of Vietnamese court music performed at annual ceremonies (coronations, funerals or official receptions) in Nguyen dynasties. It was recognized in 2003 by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Among the numerous musical genres that developed in Vietnam, only Nha Nhac can claim a nationwide scope and strong links with the traditions of other East Asian countries. Nha Nhac developed during the Le dynasty (1427-1788) and became highly institutionalized and codified under the Nguyen monarchs (1802-1945). As a symbol of the dynasty’s power and longevity, Nha Nhac became an essential part of the court’s many ceremonies. However, the role of Nha Nhac was not limited to musical accompaniment for court rituals: it also provided a means of communicating with and paying tribute to the gods and kings as well as transmitting knowledge about nature and the universe.
UNESCO's recognition for Nha Nhac as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity
The cultural space of the gongs in the central highlands of Vietnam has been inscribed in the list of "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible cultural heritage of humanity". The cultural space of the gongs in the central highlands of Vietnam covers 5 provinces including Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Daklak, Daknong and Lam Dong. The owners of this cultural space are various minority ethnic groups such as Ede, Jarai, Bana... The cultural space of the gongs in Tay Nguyen combines various elements including gongs, rhythms, players and ceremonial festivals (the blessing of the rice, the ritual sacrifice of the bullocks...) and the place holding those festivals (long house, communal house, mountain field, river wharf, charnel house...). At present, the Gongs Festivals are annually held in the central provinces with the purpose to conserve and promote its cultural identity and also to attract tourists.
Quan Ho Bac Ninh folk songs represent for Vietnamese music in Red Delta provinces (Bac Ninh, Bac Giang). The songs are performed as alternating verses between two women from one village who sing in harmony, and two men from another village who respond with similar melodies, but with different lyrics. The women traditionally wear distinctive large round hats and scarves; the men’s costumes include turbans, umbrellas and tunics. Quan họ singing is common at rituals, festivals, competitions and informal gatherings, where guests will perform a variety of verses for their hosts before singing farewell. Younger musicians of both sexes may practice the four singing techniques – restrained, resonant, ringing and staccato – at parties organized around singing. Quan họ songs express the spirit, philosophy and local identity of the communities in this region, and help forge social bonds within and between villages that share a cherished cultural practice. Quan Ho Bac Ninh folk songs was recognized as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2009 by UNESCO.
UNESCO's recognition of intangible cultural heritage of humanity for Quan Ho Bac Ninh folk songs
Performing love duets in Hoan Kiem Lake, Ha Noi
Ca tru is a complex form of sung poetry found in the north of Viet Nam using lyrics written in traditional Vietnamese poetic forms. Ca tru groups comprise three performers: a female singer who uses breathing techniques and vibrato to create unique ornamented sounds, while playing the clappers or striking a wooden box, and two instrumentalists who produce the deep tone of a three-stringed lute and the strong sounds of a praise drum. Some Ca tru performances also include dance. The varied forms of Ca tru fulfill different social purposes, including worship singing, singing for entertainment, singing in royal palaces and competitive singing. In 2009, Ca tru ceremonial singing was recognized as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO. The cultural space of Ca tru covers over 16 provinces including Phu Tho, Vinh Phuc, Hanoi, Bac Giang, Bac Ninh, Haiphong, Hai Duong, Hung Yen, Ha Nam, Nam Dinh, Thai Binh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh.
Promoting Ca Tru organized by UNESCO
The art of Don Ca Tai Tu music and song in the South of Viet Nam is a musical art that has both scholarly and folk roots. It developed in the South of Viet Nam in the late nineteenth century. Don Ca Tai Tu resonates with the lifestyle of the Southern people who work on the land and rivers of the delta region. It reflects their inner feelings and emotions, industriousness, generosity and courage. Initially, instruments for Don Ca Tai Tu performance included the moon-shaped lute (kim), two-stringed fiddle (co), 16-string zither (tranh) and monochord (bau). Later, the violin and guitar were adapted. Don Ca Tai Tu is performed within hereditary musical families and by music ensembles and clubs. The audience can join practicing, making comments or creating new song texts. This kind of art was recognized as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO in December 2013.
A band of Don Ca Tai Tu in HCM City in 1911
Don Ca Tai Tu band Nguyen Tong Trieu went to perform in a Fair in Marseill (France), 1906
EN: Tran Trang (with consultation from UNESCO's website)
Đinh Quynh Hoa