VEN : VELVETY « THEN » SINGING , TÀY ETHNIC GROUP OF VIETNAM

« Then » singing in Tuyen Quang and other northern Vietnamese provinces is making necessary preparations to seek United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognition as an intangible world cultural heritage in urgent need of protection.

This is a big opportunity for the Tay ethnic minority group in Tuyen Quang Province to display its cultural heritage to the world. However, this move also poses challenges for the province in how to preserve and promote the values of this special traditional art form.

Velvety « Then » singing

The word Then originates from « Thien », which means Sky or Heaven, therefore Then singing is regarded by the local Tay ethnic minority group as a tune of the Gods. For many centuries, “Then” singing has always been an indispensable spiritual dish of the Tay ethnic group in Tuyen Quang and in the Viet Bac region in general.

The content of Tuyen Quang’s Then singing is divided into two groups: Worship « Then » and Festival « Then ». According to statistics of Tuyen Quang Museum, Worship « Then » and Festival « Then » include about 60 ancient songs. Worship « Then » songs are often sung at peaceful nights when people fall asleep, helping listeners immerse themselves fully in the songs while Festival « Then » songs are considered as a way to communicate with the deities to ask for bumper crops and a more prosperous and happy life.

According to culture researchers, the outstanding features of « Then » singing are shown in the simple words which are full of images and close with daily life along with soft, insistent rhythms. Therefore, « Then » singing also became popular among the Nung and the Thai peoples and is now practiced in 14 provinces and cities across Vietnam.

Professor, Doctor To Ngoc Thanh, Chairman of the Viet Nam Folk Arts Association said if superstitious factors to use « Then » singing for medical purposes are not counted, then it is both a traditional cultural space and a folk art work that reflects, describes and reminds us of the ups and downs in our ancestors’ lives.

Efforts to preserve « Then » singing

Like many other art forms, « Then » singing is on the brink of falling into oblivion. A recent survey conducted by Tuyen Quang Provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism showed that « Then » singing is performed mainly in Chiem Hoa, Na Hang and Lam Binh districts and some communes in other districts. There are currently very few artists who can master this art form. Therefore, it will be a big challenge for Tuyen Quang Province in preserving this musical genre as Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan agreed to compile the dossier for UNESCO to recognize it as a humankind cultural heritage.

In the short term period, the Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism will suggest and consult with the province about solutions to preserve and promote value of « Then » singing. They include research, collection, compilation and publication of books and music disks concerning Tay ethnic group’s « Then » singing. Other solutions would include organizations of training and practicing courses and coordination with localities to invite artisans to instruct the young generations.

Nguyen Viet Thanh, the Director of Tuyen Quang Provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism said the provincial culture sector is drafting a mechanism to encourage and honor artisans and those who are devoted to maintaining and imparting this art form to younger generations.

However, researchers said preservation and promotion of the Tay ethnic group’s cultural heritage in Tuyen Quang would not be an overnight task and need contribution of the whole community, especially each individuals’ awareness in conserving traditional culture of Vietnamese peoples and the « Then » singing of Tay ethnic group’s in particular.

Source: VEN

THEN SINGING

Then Singing

« Then » singing is a traditional kind of oratorio art in Vietnam. That form of art performance originated form religious activities of Tai, Tay and Nung ethnic groups in Northern Vietnam. The name « Then » is a word in the language of Tay ethnic group and means « god » in English. That name comes from religious liturgies of ethnic people to worship the god and pray for their life.

http://www.toursinvietnam.com/vietnam-travel-guide/then-singing.html

“Then” singing can be found in 5 mountainous provinces in the North of Vietnam: Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Ha Giang, Lang Son, and Tuyen Quang Province. Some documents indicated that “then” singing’s origin is from Mac Dynasty (in 16th century).

“Then” singing is combination of singing, music and dance. It’s usually performed by a group of vocalists who can be males or females. They sing “then” melodies at traditional liturgies of celebrating a new house, weddings, longevity parties, Long Tong Festival, etc; as well as religious rites of praying for health, harvest, funerals, etc.

An indispensible instrument of “then” singing is “dan tinh”, so-called “tinh tau” in Vietnamese (gourd lute). “Tinh tau” originated from the language of Tay ethnic minority. In that language, “tinh” means “stringed musical instrument” and “tau” means “gourd”. “Tinh tau” has the body made from “gourd” and a long fret board. The strings are made of silk, nylon or fishing wire. There are two type of “tinh tau”: 2-string “tinh tau” and 3-string one. Two-string “tinh tau” is usually used as accompaniment instrument for dance and singing; three-string one is for religious rites mentioned above.

VN seeks UNESCO recognition for ethnic ‘Then’ singing

Updated
August, 19 2015 15:30:27

VN seeks UNESCO recognition for ethnic ‘Then’ singing

Artist Ha Thuan in the northern Tuyen Quang Province teaches young learners the art of « Then » singing. — Photo lenakimphu.vnweblogs.com

HA NOI (VNS) — The culture ministry has approved a plan to seek UNESCO’s recognition of an oral folk art form of three ethnic groups from northern Viet Nam as intangible cultural heritage.The Viet Nam Music Academy and provinces that are home to the three ethnic groups of Tay, Nung and Thai will coordinate to compile a dossier on « Then » singing for the above-mentioned purpose.

The provinces are Tuyen Quang, Bac Kan, Bac Giang and Cao Bang, as well as Dien Bien, Ha Giang, Lai Chau and Lang Son, besides Lao Cai, Quang Ninh and Thai Nguyen.

The music academy is responsible for preparing the dossier’s scientific content, while the Tay, Nung and Thai ethnic communities along with the people’s committees, departments of culture, sports and tourism and the departments of cultural heritage in the relevant provinces, as well as the Viet Nam Folk Arts Association will prepare the dossier, which should be finalised by February 28, 2016.

The compilation of the dossier for national nomination and then submission to UNESCO aims to honour and promote the heritage value of the traditional music genre among international friends, as well as help local communities, especially the youth, become aware of and responsible for preserving heritage values.

It also seeks to promote cultural exchanges between the Tay, Nung and Thai people and other ethnic groups in Viet Nam and other countries where musical styles similar to « Then » singing are practised.

« Then » singing is a unique combination of music and songs, and is traditionally accompanied by a handmade gourd lute called « dan tinh » or « tinh tau ».

It is believed to have been handed down from their god, belonging to a mysterious world with which only « ong Then » and « ba Then » can contact.

During rituals, « ong Then » and « ba Then » sing and play a musical instrument at the same time, while presenting offerings to their deity, representing the ethnic community’s contact with their god and asking him for things such as good health, bumper crops, happiness and a long life.

Closely linked with the spiritual life of ethnic minority groups who often use ceremonial offerings to treat illnesses, « Then » singing is seen as therapy which, together with medicine, helps to ease the worries of patients and their families. — VNS

http://vietnamnews.vn/life-style/274695/vn-seeks-unesco-recognition-for-ethnic-%E2%80%98then-singing.html

VOV : “Then” singing seeks UNESCO recognition as cultural heritage

“Then” singing seeks UNESCO recognition as cultural heritage
Update: Aug 17, 2015
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has passed an overall plan to compose a national dossier to nominate “Then” singing of the Tay, Nung and Thai ethnic groups as intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

The dossier will follow model ICH-O2 for intangible cultural heritage of humanity in accordance with the 2003 UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.

The Viet Nam National Academy of Music is responsible for scientific content. Other composers include the communities of the Tay, Nung, Thai ethnic minorities, the People’s Committees and Departments of Culture, Sports and Tourism of  Tuyen Quang, Bac Kan, Bac Giang, Cao Bang, Dien Bien, Ha Giang, Lai Chau, Lang Son, Lao Cai, Quang Ninh, Thai Nguyen, Yen Bai, the Agency for Cultural Heritage, and the Vietnamese Folklore Arts Association (VFAA).

The dossier is composed between May 4, 2015 and February 28, 2016.

Then singing, which was added to an official list of the nation’s intangible cultural heritage in 2012, is a distinctive musical genre and a special combination of the spiritual and cultural life of the Tay, Nung and Thai ethnic groups in Viet Nam.

Viet Nam is currently home to seven examples of world intangible heritage listed by UNESCO: Hue’s royal court music; Gong space culture in the Central Highlands; Quan ho (love duet) singing; the Giong festival; Ca Tru ceremonial singing; Xoan singing; and the Worship of the Hung Kings.

VOV