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Ancient music to avoid swansong

Update: December, 20/2012 - 09:58

 

Fab four: The Thai Ha Ca Tru club will perform at the Temple of Literature during the festival. — VNS Photo Viet Thanh
HA NOI (VNS)— Five clubs from Ha Noi will perform ca tru, an ancient genre of Vietnamese chamber music, at a festival that will take place at the Temple of Literature today and tomorrow.

The festival, organised by the Ha Noi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, aims to preserve ca tru and promote its precious values in response to its declining popularity.

Ca tru is a complex form of poetry found in the north of Viet Nam using lyrics written in traditional Vietnamese poetic forms. Ca tru groups comprise of three performers: a female singer who uses breathing techniques and vibrations to create unique sounds while playing the clappers or striking a wooden box, and two instrumentalists who produce the deep tones of a three-stringed lute and the strong sounds of a ceremonial drum. The varied forms of ca tru fulfil different social purposes including worship, entertainment and competition.

According to Nguyen Khac Loi, the department's director, the event will look to encourage the development of ca tru singing clubs in the city as a way of safeguarding this special singing genre, which was recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in October 2009.

"The festival is the first step by Ha Noi and Viet Nam to implement its commitment to UNESCO and safeguard this cultural heritage," said Loi.

During the two-day event, foreign and domestic lovers of ca tru will have a chance to meet and chat with singers. They can also take part in a workshop being held tomorrow by experts on how to protect and promote this genre.

According to To Ngoc Thanh, chairman of the Association of Vietnamese Folklorists, the festival is also an occasion to honour ca tru masters of art and to encourage ca tru clubs in the city to make inventories of old songs and spend more time practising the music.

"We wish to make Ha Noi the centre of old ca tru melodies because the city is home to the largest number of ca tru artisans in the country," Thanh said.

Ca tru singing appeared in the north around the 15th century and thrived until the early 20th century. Since then, it has lost popularity to imports of modern recreational forms and cultural activities.

War and insufficient awareness also caused ca tru to fall from favour during the 20th century. Although the artists have made great efforts to pass their skills down to younger generations, ca tru is under threat of being lost due to the diminishing number and age of practitioners. — VNS

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