Set against Vietnam’s rapid immersion into the world’s vibrant music scene, Then singing has been more or less drowned out by her neighbors. Although a Then performance is a perfect element of any Vietnam cultural tour, even the locals have only a vague idea of what it is and how deep its history goes. But now the VACC, the Hanoi Old Quarter Management Board, and Dinh Lang Viet (Vietnamese Communal House) group have sprung up to squeeze and blow new life into the lost world of Then, freeing it from centuries of stillness in Tay’s minority groups. The show puts a heavy emphasis on performing Tay’s rituals which are accompanied by Then, with the aim of bringing this art form closer to a general audience, paving the way for Then to become a UNESCO-inscribed intangible cultural heritage.
A Then performance (Source: Internet)
Tay’s artists are bringing a contemporary approach to these traditional tunes that draw on world music influence and lyric improvisation. For them, preserving Then singing is about both evolving it to suit a more popular interest so that it secures a solid standing, as well as promoting the ancient tunes in equal measure.
Young singers had their share of the stage too (Source: Internet)
Gathered in Kim Ngan temple in Hanoi’s Old Quarter were five of Tay’s finest artists. On the Vietnamese version of the rumba shaker were Pham Van Quang and Nguyen Van Bach, between them and holding Tinh, the ancient wooden guitar-like instrument was Nong Thi Lim, showing the power of her singing.
As an effort to promote Then singing, this show featured the household names whom have been recognized by the audience and the state to ensure the best and the most authentic performance possible. However, young singers had their share of the stage too with 8 revived songs, the brainchild of various Then artists. They have worked together to take the century-old tunes from their source without losing the essence and emotion of the original.
Among numerous ethnic minority groups’ musical genres that developed in Vietnam, only Then singing can claim such a large scale of interest among the Vietnamese in general. As the chief religious music of the Tay and Nung, Then plays an important part in their many ceremonies. The effort to preserve Then singing had been taken before, but it’s not until recent years that this Tay’s tune tradition is revived and redefined by the remaining Then singers.
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