Then singing expands popularity as UNESCO-recognized heritage

(VOVWORLD) - The Bac Kan provincial Cultural Center last month hosted a musical exchange attended by hundreds of artisans and Then singing lovers in northern Vietnam. The event reflects the strong vitality of Vietnam’s traditional art form of Then singing as well as Bac Kan’s efforts to preserve and promote it.

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The musical exchange hosted by Bac Kan in December, 2020, attracts hundreds of artisans and Then singing lovers from across northern Vietnam. 

The Bac Kan provincial Cultural Center’s main hall was packed with people who came to enjoy Then singing and Tinh musical instrument performances from more than 300 artists and members of Then singing clubs from Bac Kan, Cao Bang, Lang Son, Thai Nguyen, Tuyen Quang, Bac Giang and Hanoi. 

In addition to certain similarities, different regions have their own style of singing Then. Then songs of Cao Bang are often deep and smooth, songs of Lang Son are more cheerful, while songs of Ha Giang and Tuyen Quang are often sung in a rustic and fast-paced manner.

"We invite other Then singing clubs to this event to exchange experiences and further promote Bac Kan’s Then singing. We hope people and artists from other regionsunderstand Bac Kan’s Then singing better through this exchange which was designed to bring joyto Then singing lovers," said artist Ma Thi Day, Head of Then singing and Tinh musical instrument playing club “Indigo Color” in Bac Kan province.

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Then singing was part of the spiritual life of the Tay, Nung and Thai people, reflecting the relationship between man, the natural world, and the universe. It also depicts the cultural identity of the groups - from the music to the musical instruments and the dance that accompanies the singing. Then seeks peace and happiness for the villages and their people.

It is believed that Then singing is best preserved in daily life. Then singers are both ethnic shamans and folklore artists. Much has been done to develop the art form, including writing new lyrics for Then songs to make them more relevant to modern life, adding Then singing to school curriculums, and organizing more singing clubs nationwide.

Dương Thị Lan Anh of Hanoi’s Thanh Do folksong club told VOV, "Our club has 30 members who practice Then singing regularly. Although many of them are Tay ethnic women, some members were born and raised in Hanoi. We have a member who lives in Ho Chi Minh City. She took a flight to Hanoi in the late evening justto attend this musical exchange in Bac Kan."

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When the Tay and Nung ethnic people leave their hometown and settle down in a new region, they bring the art of singing Then and playing Tinh musical instruments. Hundreds of Then singing clubs have been established across Vietnam.

"The Indigo Color club has done a very good job promoting Then singing and Tinh playing. Established in 2019, the club has organized many Then singing performances, including those for tourists to cover the club’s expenses. It now has around 60 members and many Then singing lovers have registered to join," said Lam Ngoc Du, Director of the Bac Kan provincial Cultural Center.

The singing of Then was recognized by UNESCO in 2019 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Much has been done to turn Then singing into a unique tourism product in an effort to preserve a unique heritage of Vietnam while promoting the art to future generations.