Art of Don ca tai tu music and song in the South of Viet Nam(Intangible cultural heritage)
(TITC) - Art of Don ca tai tu music and song in the South of Viet Nam (hereinafter
referred to as Don ca tai tu) is a musical art that has both scholarly and folk
roots. It developed in the South of Viet Nam in the late nineteenth century.
Don ca tai tu resonates with the lifestyle of the Southern people who work on
the land and rivers of the delta region. It reflects their inner feelings and
emotions, industriousness, generosity and courage.
Don ca tai tu has been influenced by
some other forms of cultural heritage from the Central and South of Viet Nam
such as ceremonial music (nhac le), classical
theatre and folk song (hat boi). The
repertoire of Don ca tai tu is based on 20 principal songs (bai to) and 72 classical songs (bai nhac co). These songs consist of
skeletal melodies which are used as the basis for improvisation and variation.
Don ca tai tu performers express feelings and sentiments by improvising,
ornamenting and varying the skeletal melody of pieces and the main rhythmic
Instruments for Don ca tai tu
performance include the moon-shaped lute (kim),
two-stringed fiddle (co), 16-string
zither (tranh), pear-shaped lute (ty ba), percussion (song lang), monochord (bau)
and bamboo flute (sao). The violin
and guitar are adapted. The guitar used by Don ca tai tu artists has a deep,
hollowed-out finger board, enabling musicians to play special ornamentation
characteristic of Don ca tai tu.
Don ca tai tu practitioners include master
instrumentalists (thay don), who are
highly skillful at playing and teaching numerous instruments and who have
mastered all of the classical repertoire; master lyricists (thay tuong), who are knowledgeable and
experienced at composing new song texts; master singers (thay ca), who have mastered the classical repertoire and who can
perform and teach the distinctive Don ca tai tu vocal techniques and
ornamentation. There are also regular instrumentalists (danh cam) and singers (danh
Don ca tai tu is performed within hereditary musical families and by music
ensembles and clubs. The audience can join practicing, making comments or
creating new song texts.
Don ca tai tu is passed between generations through two methods: The
traditional method of oral transmission as truyen
ngon, truyen khau, which
literally means “transmitting through the fingers and through the mouth”. For
this traditional method, the master instrumentalists and singers directly teach
learners who are members of ensembles, clubs or families. The second method
combines traditional oral methods of transmission with a syllabus in many of
the national and provincial schools of art and culture. Instrumentalists must
study for at least three years in order to learn basic instrumental techniques,
such as tremolo, glissando, trills, vibrato... They learn to perform solo or
with other musicians in duets, trios, quartets, quintets or sextets. Vocal learners,
performing either solo or in a duet, study the traditional songs. They learn to
subtly improvise using different ornamentation techniques in a way that is in
keeping with the musical aesthetics of the musical community and is appropriate
for the particular melody, mode and song text performed.
The people in Southern of Viet Nam consider Don ca tai tu as an
indispensible spiritual cultural activity in festivals, death anniversary
rituals and celebratory social events like weddings and birthdays... The Death
Anniversary of the Ancestors held annually on the twelfth day of the eighth
Originated in diversified cultural tradition of the Central and Southern
regions of Viet Nam, Don ca tai tu is always an important element in social and
cultural life of Vietnamese people.
Don ca tai tu is a cultural heritage value that mixes the influences of
court music and popular music, and has been influenced cultural exchanges with
Chinese, Khmer and Western populations.
The performance of Don ca tai tu also helps the community preserve other
cultural practices and customs that are associated with festivals, oral
culture, and handicrafts. Nowadays, Don ca tai tu is not only a cultural
activity of the community, it also makes a contribution to sustainable tourism
in the local area.
Clubs of Don ca tai tu
According to the inventory implemented in 2011, Don ca tai tu is
practiced in more than 2,500 clubs, groups and families in 21 provinces and
cities in the South of Viet Nam including An Giang, Ba Ria - Vung Tau, Bac
Lieu, Ben Tre, Binh Dương, Binh Phuoc, Binh Thuan, Ca Mau, Can Tho, Dong Nai,
Dong Thap, Hau Giang, Ho Chi Minh City, Kien Giang, Long An, Ninh Thuan, Soc
Trang, Tay Ninh, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh and Vinh Long.
On 5 December2013, at the 8th session of the
Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural
Heritage held in Baku City (Azerbaijan), UNESCO recognized officially Don ca
tai tu as Intangible CulturalHeritage of Humanity.