HCM CITY (VNS) — After don ca tai tu (southern amateur singing) was recognised as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage icon, artists, cultural managers and researchers felt pressured to protect and develop this music.
Phan Nhut Dung, who teaches music at HCM City Theatre and Cinema University and is also chairman of Southern Folk Music and Renovated Opera Club at the city's Labour Palace, said that the duty of all Vietnamese people, especially teachers of the arts, has become more important since UNESCO listed the folk music as being part of the nation's intangible heritage.
"We have to do something to preserve the art, not by protecting it in museum," he said.
Dung also said that, presently, all clubs in the city had a lack of folk instrument players because club members spend short periods learning how to play instruments. Rather, they tend to learn more popular modern instruments, such as the guitar, he said.
Besides, students, who study at the college, often return to the provinces after graduating to work as cultural workers at provincial culture centres, where there are few occasions to practise the art. They even have to quit the arts to seek jobs that pay better.
In HCM City, which hosts 118 clubs of don ca tai tu with 1,000 artists, there remains a lack of real locations for art fans, he noted.
"Many festivals and contests are organised throughout the year," he said. "But they do not appear to be pure movements, and have not deeply encouraged folk music fans."
"Preserving the art should run parallel with developing it according to the present time, without losing old traditional features," he said. "Developing the music on stage is a good way for people to understand it."
He noted that the artists should play and sing well enough so that when audiences hear the sounds of dan bau (monochord) and dan kim or dan nguyet (two-stringed moon lute), they easily remember its origins and traditions.
According to Le Van Loc, deputy director of HCM City's Culture Centre, the city plans to organise six don ca tai tu training classes next year for new fans in the city as well as to enhance the capabilities of existing club members.
The local culture, tourism and sports department will continue to organise the Hoa Sen Vang (Golden Lotus) contest to seek new don ca tai tu talent. The sector will provide financial support of VND2-3 million (US$90-140) per month to artists in need to improve their lives as well as encourage them to whole-heartedly undertake training.
"Next year, the department will co-ordinate with the local training sector to introduce the art into schools," Loc said.
"The local authorities will try their best to increase the number and quality of both clubs and artists in the city to develop a stable foundation for the art in the near future," he stated.
Next April, the first-ever Don Ca Tai Tu Festival will be organised in the southern province of Bac Lieu and is expected to attract hundreds of professional and amateur artists from 21 southern cities and provinces, especially those in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region, where the art form is popular. — VNS