Viet Nam News
BẮC NINH – Dozens of quan họ (love duets) artistes in Bắc Ninh Province – cradle of the traditional art form – are coming together every Saturday night to entertain audiences in a very special performance.
Instead of performing in the yard of a communal house yard, which is the typical venue, the singers perform on boats on the Nguyên Phi Ỷ Lan Lake in Bắc Ninh City.
The boat performances are among activities aiming to preserve values of the traditional art form that was recognised by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2009.
Trần Quang Nam, director of the province’s Culture, Sports and Tourism Department, said quan họ has different sub-genres, including hát chúc, hát mừng (literally means greeting singing); hát thờ or ritual singing; hát canh – a kind of singing competition between a village’s quan họ group with another group from another village, which takes place at night during every spring festival; and hát hội or festival singing.
“In hát hội, the singers perform on a boat,” he said, explaining why the quan họ boat performance has been a significant part of any traditional festival in Bắc Ninh Province for centuries.
“We expect that the quan họ boat performance every Saturday night will be a meaningful cultural activity, helping introduce and promote further the unique art form to residents within and outside the province,” Nam said.
The one-hour performance on Saturday night gathers artists and singers from the Bắc Ninh Quan Họ Theatre and the Bắc Ninh Provincial College of Culture and Art.
Nguyễn Thị Cần of the province’s Quế Võ District said: “Like everyone born in the homeland of quan họ, I was attached to the songs and the singing since I was a little girl. I feel the performances every Saturday will meet the demand for quan họ among the people.”
Even those who do not know this art form will find it easy to enjoy the performance because “the singers always say something about the song they are about to perform”.
Nguyễn Xuân Trung, deputy director of the culture department, said that despite quan họ having hundreds of songs and tunes, to create an interesting and different repertoire for every Saturday performance was not easy.
“From among an abundant list of hundreds of songs and tunes, we have selected carefully about 60 songs which are suitable for performing on the boat,” he said.
Quan họ is an art form that combines various elements, including music, lyrics and costumes, and features the distinctive culture of people in the region formerly called Kinh Bắc.
After its recognition as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity, the provincial authority has paid more attention to preserving the art form. These include preferential treatment for quan họ artists; open classes where artists can teach younger generations; and initiatives to collect, record and compile more than 500 quan họ folk songs. — VNS