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Tuyen Quang preserves “Then” singing

Over recent years, the northern mountainous province of Tuyen Quang has undertaken a number of measures with joint efforts from levels and sectors to protect and uphold the value of the local traditional art of Then singing. 

The province will host the 5th National Festival of “Then” singing of the Tay, Nung and Thai ethnic minority groups from September 24-26 to promote the traditional art to people nationwide. 

In order to ensure the continuity of the traditional art, the local cultural sector has compiled a list of artisans, conducted training classes and compiled and published books of Then lyrics to be introduced at schools, according to Deputy Director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Vu Phan. 

Local artisans have been encouraged to collect and write down lyrics of ancient ritual Then songs, while performances of ancient Then singing have also been promoted in community-based festivals across the province including the ethnic Tay “Long Tong” (field work) festival, Phan said. 

(“Then” singing. Photo: VNA)

As many as 50 Then singing clubs have been established in the province with nearly 1,500 people practising the traditional art. 

Folk cultural artisan Ha Thuan from Tan Hop village, Tan An commune, Chiem Hoa district, who has devoted himself to collecting, composing and promoting Then singing and “Dan Tinh” – a handmade gourd lute, highlighted the value of the traditional art in reflecting and featuring the joy and sorrow in ancestors’ daily life. 

There are two types of Then singing: “Then ky yen” (praying for good things) and “Then le hoi” (Then festival). The first is performed at rituals while the latter is to bring cheer and drive away sorrow and hardship in life and is normally used in rituals to pray for good seasons, enter a new home or “cap sac” (coming-of-age). 

The style of singing is traditionally accompanied by “Dan Tinh” – the soul of the music. Then singing was recognised as part of the National Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012. 

Tuyen Quang has worked with the Vietnam National Academy of Music and other northern provinces of Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Lang Son, Thai Nguyen, Lao Cao, Lai Chau and Bac Giang – where the music is also practised – to compile a dossier towards seeking UNESCO recognition as World Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.-VNA