PHUONG THUY : Professor Tran Van Khe, guardian of Vietnam’s traditional music

Professor Tran Van Khe, guardian of Vietnam’s traditional music

Saturday, July 18, 2015 – 7:10:34

(VOVworld) – The passing of 94-year-old musicologist Tran Van Khe on June 24 was a great loss to people who love traditional Vietnamese music. Professor Khe has dedicated his entire life to preserving Vietnam’s culture and introducing it to the world. Phuong Thuy reports:

Professor Khe is considered a great master of Vietnamese and world music. He was an honorary member of UNESCO’s International Music Council and the only Vietnamese listed in the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. During his lifetime, Professor Khe pursued a passion he called “serving traditional Vietnamese music”.  

Along with Professors To Vu and To Ngoc Thanh, Professor Khe contributed significantly to UNESCO’s recognition of Vietnam’s central highlands gong cultural space as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Journalist Nguyen Luu recalls: “Professor Khe once made a trip with other musicologists to a remote district of Dak Lak province to study gongs. He was standing next to a Filipino researcher. I was impressed to hear him speak in French to that Filipino researcher about the biggest gong of the Ede. He said it was the contrabass of the set of Ede gongs. We all were proud of his simple but accurate comparison.”

Professor Khe was one of the main contributors to UNESCO’s recognition of Vietnam’s Hue royal court music, Quan Ho folk singing, and Ca Tru ceremonial singing as world intangible cultural heritages of humanity. Professor Khe was respected by his colleagues for his responsibility and dedication to his work. He was a source of inspiration to his younger colleagues and students. In recent years, despite poor health and difficulty walking and seeing, he made an effort to take part in talk shows about different genres of traditional Vietnamese music in the hope of preserving them for future generations. Associate Professor Doctor Nguyen Thi My Liem is Deputy Director of the Ho Chi Minh City Academy of Music: “I was lucky enough to be inspired and motivated by Professor Khe, who always encouraged young people to research traditional music.”

People who met and talked to Professor Khe all said he was a true, modest, and sociable artist. He has left a precious legacy for Vietnamese musicologists. Nguyen Thao Nguyen, a presenter on VOV’s Traffic Channel, said: “Professor Khe was a sociable person. I had an opportunity to learn from his knowledge of Don ca tai tu, the amateur singing of the south and lessons of life. His lessons will be of great help to young researchers, further enriching his legacy.”

With his great passion for music, the young medical student became the first Vietnamese Doctor of Musicology in France, making a name for himself among researchers of world music. Although he passed on, he will forever remain a guardian of traditional Vietnamese music.

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