Old photos of Vietnamese traditional musicians and music restored by two reseachers from Hà Nội

May, 09/2022 - 08:13

With a passion for restoring the nation's cultural treasures, with the help of Lê Bích, researcher Đoàn Bắc has succeeded in bringing Vietnamese traditional music back to life, through the form of photography.

 

A band of blind buskers in the north of Việt Nam (19th century). 

HÀ NỘI — With a passion for restoring the nation's cultural treasures, with the help of photographer Lê Bích, collector Đoàn Bắc has succeeded in bringing Vietnamese traditional music back to life, through the restoration of old photographs.

The photo collection of traditional musicians and folk music, published in April 2022, is part of their Việt Nam Musicians and Traditional Music Exhibition that was part of the ancient photo collection Old Hà Nội Memories founded by Bắc and his father.

The project is divided into five groups: Music bands, string instruments, percussion and wind instruments, instruments of ethnic minorities (living on Trường Sơn Mountain and the Central Highlands), singers and performers of traditional art forms such as tuồng (classical opera) and cải lương (reformed opera).

“It took me 14 years from 2009 to 2022 to complete this collection,” Bắc said.

“The exhibition displays 60 black and white photos taken in Việt Nam, about the Vietnamese traditional music in the period from 1875 to 1935, that we collected and restored digitally.”

 

Traditional Vietnamese bands pose for a photo at the International Colonial Exhibition in France. 

The photos appear to have a very high digital resolution, capable of being printed up to 50cm by 75cm and 60cm by 80cm, all with full captions about the theme, characters, location and time.

To achieve such high quality and details, the journey of Bắc and his friend was far from easy.

“The annotating work for those photos took a very long time,” said Bắc.

“First, we have to rely on the data recorded by the archives in France. However, the French text recorded many years ago may be inaccurate or too simple, with little background material.

“I have sent many letters to high-end digital photo repositories as they have many digitised images from original prints or film that are stored abroad.

“Thankfully, over the last few years there have been several repositories of this kind that have completed the job of digitising photos to the HD standard and I can use them with a clear source citation.

“They are typically the sources of the National Library of France or the Humazur Library of the Côte d'Azur University.”

 

A female singer (centre) and a folk music band in Hà Nội (1884). 

 According to Bắc, his company 3G Plus has pledged to continue cooperating with the Management Board of Hà Nội's Hoàn Kiếm Lake and Old Quarter to organise more photo exhibitions on other interesting topics for visitors.

The exhibition will take place until May 20 at Hà Nội's Old Quarter Culture Exchange Centre in 50 Đào Duy Từ Street . VNS