|Far away from home: Quan ho singers pass a pepper garden on their way to a performance in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak. Quan ho duets have been brought to the mountains from the north. — Photo tuoitre.vn
Though she lives far from her homeland, Nguyen Thi Thu Hong can still delve into nostalgia with folk songs she has enjoyed since childhood.
Many others do the same in Krong Nang District in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak. They come from the northern provinces of Bac Ninh and Bac Giang, the cradle of quan ho (love duets).
It's a famous type of folk music often performed during spring festivals in the northern region.
Alternating groups of female and male singers issue musical challenges and responses to each other. Most of the songs in the repertoire deal with young adult love and romance.
They spread their love for quan ho through clubs and performances, slowly transforming Krong Nang District into the musical performance's second homeland.
"Singing quan ho helps us show our pride for our cultural heritage," said Hong.
"We also want to show it to our children, and tell them about our origins."
When Tan Hiep Village, where Hong resides, received the title of Cultural Village in 2006, the people organised a celebration.
Hong and her fellow countrymen decided to perform quan ho songs. But they couldn't find non quai thao (flat palm hats with fringes) and ao tu than (four-panel traditional robes), which quan ho singers traditionally wear while performing.
So they made the hats from the flat winnowing basket used to raise silkworms and sewed the dresses themselves.
"At the beginning, we felt shy because we hadn't performed in front of many people," said Hong. "On the other hand, we knew that our costumes looked very weird."
The performance got a warm welcome from the audience, which applauded heartily. Since then, they've sung regularly and brought more people in to join them.
Nguyen Kim Truong, a member of the first love duets club in Tan Hiep Village, said the club has been granted many prizes at competitions and festivals in the province.
"We work on the pepper and coffee plantation in the morning and practise singing in the afternoon," said Truong. "It takes a lot of practise for us to perform well. We listen to the songs on CDs, write down the lyrics and learn them by heart."
Truong said the singing lives in their hearts. Though they work hard in the fields, they still practise quan ho whenever they can. They perform at festivals, weddings, birthdays, and celebrations for new houses and new crops.
"Thanks to singing, we are happy and excited. We feel the joy of living and stay healthy," said Tran Van Vu, head of Quyet Tien Village's quan ho club.
"Some people as old as 70 still love singing, even when they feel tired after several songs."
Truong Quang Huy of the district office of culture and information said singing quan ho has become a beautiful tradition for local people.
"Many people from the northern region migrated to the Central Highlands to reclaim lands and earn a living, starting in 1998," he said.
"They have built up a fine lifestyle in their new homeland. They volunteer to join the clubs, practise and buy costumes and sound systems with their own money. We highly appreciate their willingness." — VNS