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UNESCO recognition sought for central provinces' historic singing

Update: June, 25/2012 - 10:26


In the spotlight: The First Festival of Vi Giam Folk Singing kicks off on Saturday in Vinh City.


Worth preserving: The festival in two central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh helps preserve and protect traditional folk singing. — VNA Photos

NGHE AN — The inaugural National Vi Giam Folk Singing Festival was launched at Ho Chi Minh Square in the central city of Vinh City on Saturday.

The three-day festival co-organised by the provincial People's Committees of Nghe An and Ha Tinh aims to help preserve the thousand-year-old folk music.

Attending the opening ceremony of the festival on Saturday were chairman of National Assembly Nguyen Sinh Hung and other governmental and provincial leaders.

More than 20 top vi giam singing clubs from across the region are participating at the festival, which also features arts performances by local and national artists drawing thousands of local people and tourists.

Vi giam singing, a kind of folk music from the central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh, often reflects the working and cultural lives of people in the coastal provinces. The art is a treasured cultural heritage that features vocalists singing in a call and response pattern.

Deputy chairman of the Nghe An People's Committee Nguyen Xuan Duong said that as a unique folk music of the region, it should be preserved and protected.

"A submission to UNESCO for recognition of vi giam singing as a World Intangible Heritage is being finalised," he said.

Taking advantage of people's continued interest in vi giam was a crucial factor to revitalising this type of traditional culture, Duong said.

Nghe An Province has about 50 vi giam singing clubs with about 2,000 members, who are the main people preserving this art.

Vi giam singing has seen a revival compared to 10 years ago, when fewer people practised the art.

Recently, the provincial culture department has paid great attention to developing vi giam singing clubs and organising local contests, which increases public participation in a music that was mostly sung by family members at home 10 years ago.

Established in 2009, Ngoc Son club in Ngoc Son Commune, Thanh Chuong District has 40 members of different ages.

Members Nguyen Thi Ba, aged 88, is a veteran vi giam singer who has kept her passion for the art. After having a plate of betel nuts, Ba can sing for an hour, while also spending a lot of time to teach young singers.

As one of clubs first established in the province, Hong Son club in Quynh Luu District was set up in 1975 by the Hong Son agriculture co-operative art troupe.

At the beginning the club selected 50 amateur singers from hundreds of candidates of all ages.

Nguyen Yet Niem, leader of the club, said that the club's members usually practised at home and honed their art by watching vi giam singing programmes on provincial radio and television.

"Every two months, the members gather to rehearse, and also stage not-for-profit performances at local events," he said.

All the clubs have enthusiastic volunteers who want to restore and preserve the traditional art.

Responding to an urgent need for maintaining vi giam, in 2000, the province's Culture, Sports and Tourism Department set up the Centre for Preservation and Promotion of Folk Singing Heritage.

The centre has co-ordinated with the provincial folklore culture and arts association to hold seminars as well as focus-on-performing repertoires.

Over 40 melodies featuring daily life and working activities like have been enhanced by the centre.

"It's lucky for vi giam singers to see that local people have never turned their back on this type of folk singing," said Trinh Thi Hong Luu, the centre's deputy-director.

The centre also aims to bring vi giam singing to schools and better engage tourism companies to introduce the art to locals and visitors.

The centre has recorded folk songs, held competitions on folk singing and promoted this kind of music to people across the country and around the world through books, DVDs and CDs.

It was supporting provincial authorities to finalise the dossier on folk music to submit to UNESCO for recognition as a World Intangible Heritage in 2015.

Viet Nam now has six examples of intangible heritage listed by UNESCO as world intangible heritage, including Hue's royal court music, gong space culture in the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands), the northern province of Bac Ninh's love duet singing, the Giong festival and ceremonial singing and xoan singing. — VNS

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