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Tuong keeps flame of traditional art

Update: April, 06/2009 - 00:00

Tuong keeps flame of traditional art


Staying alive: Artists from Central Tuong Theatre perform the play King Ly Cong Uan Moves the Capital to Thang Long. Many artists from the theatre have been influenced by the passion of locals for tuong in Quang Nam Province, the cradle of the art. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Ha

A life of poverty and hunger is far easier to bear among the people in Que Son District in the central province of Quang Nam than an existence that doesn’t include tuong, a classical drama.

Tuong is connected strongly to the daily lives of the people, which has been a proud tradition among them for many generations. It is considered a spiritual dish which is always hungered for.

Que Son District has 18 communes and 12 tuong troupes, according to Nguyen Hoang Chuong, director of Que Son District’s Culture and Sports Centre.

Each club was founded by the local people under direction and support from the communal authorities. The amateur actors organise plays and practise together before staging public performances.

A tuong festival is held every two years in the district to provide opportunity for artists to perform in the limelight.

"Finding young people with a love for tuong in Que Son District is no longer as difficult as looking for a needle in a haystack," Chuong says.

"Tuong troupes no longer face difficulties finding an audience as they have in the past. Both the old and the young are fond of watching tuong performances."

Naturally, the tuong rhythm is soaked into their blood because they learn to sing from their elders. Most of these artists do not receive formal training at school.

Artists have arranged high quality performances including Trung Vuong De Co (Queen Trung Writes on a Flag) and Bat Com Chan Le (A Bowl of Rice Drenched with Tears).

The Tuong Club of Thuong Nghiep Village is well-known because it was set up by popular amateurs with charmed voices such as Phan Thi Khai, Phan Thi Nhan and Le Thi Than.

At the age of 80, Khai still bursts into song and receives loud ovations from audiences.

"When the tuong festival is held, we return to our youth again," she says. "Whenever I perform tuong, I feel rejuvenated."

The older generation claim that they will perform until their last breath.

Developing the tradition

Tuong clubs have helped to preserve and promote the art in Que Son District.

In spite of poor facilities, tuong clubs still run regularly. There is always a traditional performance to enjoy at every festival at the district.

"We keep the flame of tradition burning by keeping the art a part of people’s lives," Chuong says.

In recent years, veteran artists and the local government have begun to teach the next generation of performers to uphold the tradition. A promising force of little artists has emerged including boys and girls between 11 and 14 years old.

At the age of 17, Huynh Thi Khanh Phuong has spent many years learning from her elders and has begun to win the hearts of audiences.

Artist Huynh Hoa is full of excitement when talking about the young actors.

"We have already seen the first success in training the young generation," he says. "Although they don’t sing well yet, they have a desire to sing, they love tuong as if they were lovers."

The district’s Culture and Sports Centre supports clubs by providing money for the purchase of props and clothes.

"The troupes don’t just perform classic works. We also stage new plays around social issues such as social evils, family planning, increasing production and love affairs with the aim of luring audiences."

New plays portraying modern life created and performed by Que Son District artists such as Con Duong Lang (Village Lane) and Long Gia Yeu Nuoc (The Old Loves His Country) have amazed audiences.

During the resistance war, Que Son District tuong troupes used their songs to encourage soldiers to fight against invaders and mobilise patriotism among the people. Now, the artists continue sharing their talent to make life more cheerful and to uphold the country’s traditional art. — VNS

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