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Traditional music expert dies at 95

Update: June, 25/2015 - 09:51
Reaching back in time: Professor Tran Van Khe, a world-renowned ethnomusicologist specialising in traditional Vietnamese music. — VNS Photo Nguyen A
HCM CITY  (VNS) — Professor Tran Van Khe, a world-renowned ethnomusicologist specialising in traditional Vietnamese music, died yesterday at Gia Dinh Hospital in HCM City. He was 95 years old.

Born in 1920 into a family of four generations of musicians in the Mekong Delta's Tien Giang Province, the young Khe developed a flair for traditional musical instruments from his aunts and uncles who acted as mentors after his parents died.

He defended his doctoral dissertation on traditional Vietnamese music in Paris in 1958, becoming the first Vietnamese to earn a doctoral degree in music.

Khe later worked for France's prestigious Centre National de Recherche Scient-ifique (National Centre of Scientific Research), and taught at Sorbonne University. He was elected a member of the UNESCO's International Council of Music.

He attended more than 220 international conferences on music, and wrote more than 200 articles on various international magazines.

In 1991, he received the Officer de l'Ordre des Arts des Letters presented by the Ministry of Culture and Information of France.

Khe spent his life introducing Asian music and Viet Nam's culture and music to the world.

For his contribution to Asian music, the Koijomi Fumio Fund presented Khe with an award in 1994.

In 2003, Khe returned to Viet Nam and gave talks on traditional music to local music students and artists.

The musician-researcher also encouraged parents to teach folk songs, particularly lullabies, to their young children.

Three traditional Vietnamese musical forms, nha nhac (court music), quan ho (love duals) and gongs, received official recognition from UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of the World thanks to Khe's contributions.

He donated to HCM City his massive collection of hundreds of documents, research books, dictionaries, videos, cassette tapes and CDs about Vietnamese folk songs and music as well as ancient musical instruments like the dan bau (monochord) and dan tranh (16-chord zither).

The city's Culture and Information Department said it would build a showroom to store and display Khe's collection.

In 2010, a documentary Tran Van Khe–Nguoi Truyen Lua (The Man Who Carries the Torch of Vietnamese Music), directed by Pham Hoang Nam, highlights Khe's eventful life.

Khe received the Labour Order and HCM City Medal from the Government and HCM City's People's Committee in 1999 and 2013, respectively.

The professor's funeral will be held at his home in Huynh Van Hai Street in Binh Thanh District. — VNS

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