|KHMER FESTIVAL: A series of dù kê performances are being staged by the Ánh Bình Minh Traditional Art Troupe during the 2023 Southern Dù Kê Theatre Festival at Trà Vinh University in Trà Vinh City from April 1-7. — Photo courtesy of the theatre|
TRÀ VINH — Performers from the Bình Minh Traditional Art Troupe in Trà Vinh Province are working to preserve dù kê, a unique style of Khmer musical theatre from southern Việt Nam.
They have offered a series of dù kê performances during the 2023 Southern Dù Kê Theatre Festival at Trà Vinh University from April 1-7.
Their art, dù kê, was created by the ethnic Khmer in the early 1920s. It spread widely in the region and in Cambodia under the name L'khon Ba Sắc. It was recognised as a national intangible cultural heritage by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in 2014.
Veteran and young artists such as Meritorious Artist Kim Nghinh and young talent Xô Ma Ly, in traditional clothes, sing and dance based on the religions, traditional customs and culture of the Khmer.
Drama plays called Chuyện tình nàng Thi Đa Pâu (Love Story of Miss Thi Đa Pâu) and Điệu khúc Ba Sắc (Ba Sắc Dance) are also featured.
"Through the festival, we introduce dù kê and hope audiences can learn and love our traditional art. They can discover how rich our culture and lifestyle are as well as learn our history and people," said Meritorious Aritist and theatre director Thạch Sung, head of Ánh Bình Minh Traditional Art Troupe.
Sung has more than 30 years in the troupe. He and his artists often come to remote districts in the Cửu Long (Mekong) River Delta provinces that lack good entertainment to perform for free. Their performances provide local people with basic knowledge about dù kê and the musical instruments.
According to Sung, dù kê uses poetry based on great Vietnamese folk tales and Indian epics, and Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It reflects the hopes and dreams of the Khmer people. “Dù kê is not easy to learn because it requires actors to have an aptitude and singing, dancing and acting skills," said the 60-year-old.
The 2023 Southern Dù Kê Theatre Festival is co-oraginsed by the Việt Nam Theatre Artists’ Association and Trà Vinh Province. It aims to preserve and promote the traditional art of the Khmer.
It attracts 500 artists from 13 leading troupes in the region such as Ánh Bình Minh Traditional Art Troupe and Raskmây Khmer Troupe of Trà Vinh, Sóc Trăng Province Khmer Art Troupe, and Bạc Liêu Province Khmer Art Troupe.
|KHMER CULTURE: Young artists of the Ánh Bình Minh Traditional Art Troupe in Trà Vinh Province work hard to preserve and develop dù kê, a unique style of Khmer musical theatre from southern Việt Nam. — Photo courtesy of the theatre|
Begun in Trà Vinh in 1960, Ánh Bình Minh Traditional Art Troupe has attracted more than 50 performers, not including stage workers.
Its artists, mostly from farmer families, have inherited dù kê from their older generations to preserve their art.
“Dù kê originated in Trà Vinh in 1920 by Kru Co - a farmer who loved drama singing and the owner of a troupe which offered performances and training in the art," said young actress Xô Ma Ly.
Ly, 23, and her peers participated and won top prizes at several national professional theatre festivals. Their shows have aired on channels of the Việt Nam Television, HCM City Television, and provincial radio and television stations of Trà Vinh, Sóc Trăng, Cà Mau, Kiên Giang and An Giang.
They also perform dù kê on holidays and festivals of the Khmer, including Chol Chnam Thmay and Ok Om Bok.
“Dù kê is the product of the creativity of our Khmer culture. Our artists are working to keep it alive,” said Ly. — VNS