|Practice makes perfect: Six senior artists rehearse the Indochina Dance and other pieces of tai tu in HCM City a few days before travelling to China, where they will perform at the world conference of the International Council of Traditional Music. — VNS Photo Van Dat
HCM CITY (VNS)— Eight senior Vietnamese artists (six musicians and two singers) yesterday completed rehearsals for performing an old piece of tai tu music at an international event in Shanghai next week.
The artists will also perform some other compositions at the 42nd world conference of the International Council for Traditional Music next Saturday.
The notations for Indochina Dance, a very early tai tu piece performed in France in 1900 on the stage of Indochina Theatre at the Paris International Fair, was accidentally found by Australian- Vietnamese music expert Nguyen Le Tuyen while he was researching the music form at the France National Library last year.
"This is the most ancient piece in the tai tu music history of Viet Nam. It was noted by French researcher Julien Tiersot in 1900. At the performance, famous French ballet dancer Cleo de Merode danced to the music," Tuyen said.
After finding the music piece, Tuyen announced his discovery to senior traditional musicians in the country, including researcher Bui Trong Hien, who helped him convert the music sheet to the traditional Vietnamese style.
"This surprising discovery is meaningful as Viet Nam is applying for UNESCO regconition of tai tu music as an intangible cultural heritage. It's surprising that 113 years ago, the music piece was performed in France and now, it will be presented before more than 700 international traditional music experts," Tuyen told Viet Nam News.
It was also evidence that early in the 20th century, the public and the French colonialists paid attention to tai tu music, a precious Vietnamese asset, Tuyen said.
Tuyen, who lectures at the Australian National University, said his surmise that this was the earliest piece was based on the fact that it was performed 10 years before the earliest book with tai tu compositions was printed in 1909.
Artists Huynh Van Khai, Nguyen Thi Hai Phuong, Vo Vam Kim, Vo Truong Giang, Pham Cong Ty, Phan Minh Duc, Mai Thanh Mai and Pham Van Mon will perform the Indochina Dance as it was done in more than a century ago.
All six artisans agree that the music is not different from what they are playing now, meaning that tai tu has retained its originality for more than a century though its compositions are not written.
"I am proud that the music was introduced in a foreign country 113 years ago. That means tai tu had developed before that for decades," said Huynh Khai, who has been performing traditional music for 34 years.
He said he was eager to introduce the music again to international experts.
Vu Kim Anh, deputy director of HCM City's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said UNESCO would take a decision on recognising tai tu in December this year.
"However, pass or fail is not important. This is proof that tai tu music has retained its vitality for a long period of time. For more than 100 years, the music has remained unchanged and developed well," she said. — VNS