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Delta music genre confronts a paradox

Update: March, 27/2014 - 10:27
Existential dilemma: A tai tu troupe performs for tourists in Ben Tre Province. Music researchers are worried that performing this genre of music for money will kill its original spirit. — File Photo

HCM CITY (VNS)— Music researchers are worried about the profusion of new tai tu (amateur) music clubs in HCM City and southern provinces after the music was recognised by UNESCO as an intangible world heritage.

Tai tu, a traditional southern music genre, developed from court music after blending with local folk music forms, and for long has been seen as part of the Mekong Delta's cultural identity.

The music for years has been rooted in the cultural and spiritual life of the southern people. Farmers and workers play the music during free time in gardens, on fields, at parties or on boats drifting on canals. Artists play the music in "amateur" groups, not to earn money but to amuse themselves and friends.

"The soul of the music is vanishing as it is now being performed for money," said celebrated music researcher Tran Van Khe.

"At many restaurants in HCM City's suburban areas,concerts are performed which include cai luong (reformed opera) and pop music," said well-known artist Nam The.

"Tai tu is destroyed in this atmosphere, " The said. "Many artists sing vong co (traditional tunes) but they pretend they sing tai tu."

"However, concerts at restaurants attract a large number of people and meet audience demands," musician Huynh Khai said.

"The music has received a warm welcome from foreign and domestic tourists at eco-tourism parks in the Mekong Delta region," Khai said.

"Whether the music develops or loses audiences will depend on our efforts to preserve it," he said.

According to the latest statistics, the tai tu movement has spread to 21 cities and provinces around the country, with 2,258 clubs and 13,800 members, of whom the youngest is six years old and the oldest 99.

HCM City has 118 clubs with a total of more than 2,000 artists. Classes are given at the Traditional Music Department of the city's University of Drama and Cinematography and at the Traditional Music Department of the HCM City Conservatory of Music.

Many classes are offered at cultural houses in the city's districts, attracting thousands of people.

District 5's Culture House will organise 10 classes on tai tu for those interested in 56 suburban villages this year.

HCM City's Education and Training Department is working with the Culture, Sports and Tourism Department on a project to introduce tai tu music to primary schools in the city, according to Nguyen Van Minh, deputy director of Culture, Sports and Tourism Department.

A support policy for veteran artists is one of several suggestions mentioned by music researchers during last week's meeting in HCM City to seek ways to preserve tai tu.

"Many experienced tai tu artists are very old now, "said playwright Ngo Hong Khanh.

"They're valuable assets of the music. Incentive policies will be initiated in favour of old artists to help them pass on their knowledge of the music to the younger generation," Khanh said.

"The artists' contribution will best help us preserve the treasure of traditional music of the country," he said.

Despite contributions to the preserving of tai tu music, many veteran artists have not received any recognition or financial support from the State. — VNS

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