Xoan singing in Phu Tho Province(Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity)
Xoan singing or hat cua dinh (singing at the communal house) is a kind of performing art relating to worshipping gods. In the past, VanLang people heldXoansinging performancein the spring towelcomethenewyear. TherearethreeformsofXoan singing as the worship singing to commemorate Hung Kingsand village guardian gods; the ritual singing to pray for good crops, good health; and thefestive singing – a form of love duet.
singing has existed for more than 2,000 years since Hung Kings dynasty.
So all old Xoan songs originated from ancient villages in the center of
Van Lang nation (now Phu Tho Province), after spread out the villages
in the two banks of Lo and Hong rivers. Four old Xoan guilds are An
Thai, Phu Duc, Kim Doi and Thet in two communes of Kim Duc and Phuong
Lau (Viet Tri City, Phu Tho Province).
The Xoan guilds perform Xoan singing at the village’s communal house according to phrases as follows:
Firstly, the worship singing
to commemorate Hung Kings, village guardian gods, the people who had
merit for the country and families’ ancestors through the repertoires of
Giao trong and Tho nhang…
Secondly, the ritual singing
(with 14 different melodies) to express admiration of nature, human
beings, and communities’ life, and some repertoires about history such
as Trang Mai cach and Hoi lien cach…
Finally, the festive singing
is alternate singing between singers and instrumentalists. The audience
could take part in singing together with Xoan guilds to express love
and dreams about happiness through melodies of Mo ca (groping for fishes), Xin hue (asking for flowers), Bo bo…
Xoan songs were composed by common people following poetry styles such
as seven-seven-six-eight-word-meter verse, seven-beat-meter verse,
six-eight-word-meter verse, the variants of six-eight-word-meter verse,
four-word verse, and six-word verse. Xoan music has a simple structure
with few ornamental notes. It often uses three-note scale and four-note
scale with simple rhythm.
guilds are the places where folk artists keep their close relationship,
creating the specific feature of Xoan singing. Xoan guilds often gather
and perform in the spring festivals. After the festivals, the
practitioners of Xoan guilds return to work as everyone in the
community. Each Xoan guild has 15 – 18 members, of which one leader is
referred to as Trum, male practitioners are called Kep (instrumentalists) while female practitioners are called Dao
(singers)… The leader is an expert in art and mastered in all customs
of Xoan singing. He is also responsible for organizing and training
instrumentalists and singers. Knowledge on practice, custom and
regulations of taboo, and techniques for singing, playing drum and
clappers and dancing of Xoan singing were always transmitted orally from
this person to another in the community.
On November 24th
2011, at the 6th meeting of the Inter-governmental Committee for the
Conservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO held in Bali, Indonesia,
Xoan singing in Phu Tho was officially recognized by UNESCO as an
Intangible Cultural Heritage in need of urgent safeguarding. It meets
necessary requirements as unique lyrics, melodies and tunes; combining
elements of culture, history and art; containing many cultural values;
and having been preserved through many centuries.