Traditional music strikes deep chord

Published: 02/04/2010 05:00



LookAtVietnam – Students at Bac Lieu University share with their counterparts elsewhere in the country a passion for modern pop music.

Play it again: Bac Lieu University students perform tai tu music on campus. The students find no conflict between their love for both traditional music and modern music. While pop music entertains, the traditional songs are deeply engrained.
Play it again: Bac Lieu University students perform tai tu music on campus. The students find no conflict between their love for both traditional music and modern music. While pop music entertains, the traditional songs are deeply engrained.
But unlike HCM City, where vong co (nostalgic tunes) and its original form of tai tu music are largely eclipsed on university campuses, these traditional forms of music hold great allure for students in the Mekong Delta Province.

In fact, both vong co and tai tu music performances outnumber those of modern pop music on the Bac Lieu campus.

With students mainly coming from the corner of the Mekong Delta that includes Bac Lieu, Soc Trang and Ca Mau provinces, the university offers training in subjects like Information Technology, Pedagogy, Agriculture and Economics.

Not easy to practice

During breaks or even within periods, when teachers allow some time to relax, many students will volunteer to perform vong co in front of the class”, said Nguyen Hoai Hanh, a second-year pedagogy student.

Hanh said that more than half of her class can sing vong co beautifully, even though the art form is not easy to practise and requires accurate rhythm.

“They either acquire the skill from listening to records many times or learn from vong co masters who are numerous in the villages,” she said, admitting that she can sing but not as beautifully as her classmates.

Many students can sing some of the 20 original songs of tai tu music, which are the most difficult in the repertoire and require many years to master, according to Le Anh Tuan, a third-year IT student.

However, “none of them can sing all of the songs”, he added.

Le Chi Tam, one of Tuan’s classmates, said he usually drones these songs all by himself when he’s on the bike to school or home, drawing on his childhood passion.

“When we play a record at home, we will definitely play vong co or cai luong music,” he said.

His family has had a long engagement with the art form, Tam said. His grandfather and some of his uncles used to perform in troupes, while his brother and sister can sing vong co naturally just like him.

Tam once showed off his talent at a vong co-singing contest that attracted many good singers among students last October to commemorate the father of the art.

“Any social gathering in villages, like weddings, funerals, birthdays or anniversaries will never be complete without tai tu performances,” said Van Hoang Su, a second-year IT student from the province’s Dong Hai District.

Sometimes modern music is also featured, but not as well received by villagers who are mostly farmers.

“When they are in the mood, they just get together with a guitar, a zither and some wine and sing during the evenings,” Su said.

He said his father, a tai tu musician, taught him intricacies of the art when he was just a little boy, and then entrusted him to some masters in the village, because “he’s determined not to let me forget ancestors’ heritage.”

“Tunes laden with emotions sound so sweet and sentimental, and its lyrics are sincere and simple,” said second-year pedagogy student Nguyen Thi Rieng, from Hong Dan District. “They go straight to the heart,” she added.

Rieng has lived with the music for a long time and has won prizes at singing contests at both district and provincial levels.

“We have both good singers and good instrument players in the university, so we will form a club so that we can perform together,” she said, noting that students have proposed the idea to school leaders and received their approval.

However, Rieng also admitted that she has developed a passion for pop music, which she has listened to ever since she began attending the university.

She estimated almost half of her schoolmates are fans of traditional music like her, while the other half are in the modern music camp.

“But the latter is attracting more and more students,” she noted.

Su said that once in town, students can easily find and enjoy hit songs anytime they like by listening online or downloading them from numerous websites.

“Youthful and energetic tunes match youth mentality,” he says, “Young adults like us like love songs which reflect our mood.”

Tran Dinh Binh, head of the university’s Department of Students’ Affairs, said that traditional music was facing fierce competition from its modern counterpart.

“After all, youngsters are more prone to like the new,” he said.

On the other hand, the fact that not many students can perform vong co, while everyone can sing pop songs, makes it harder for the former to recruit fans, according to Huynh Huu Nghia, a junior economic student.

He said a hip-hop club of around 20 members has been functioning for more than three years on campus, whilst a similar organisation for tai tu music is still in its infancy.

But Nghia, like many of his peers at the university, stressed they are mature enough to determine their favourite music of their own.

“How can I ever turn my back on vong co? It’s in my blood,” Su said.

“I enjoy pop music just for fun and easily forget it afterwards,” but “anytime I listen to vong co, it touches each and everyone of my chords.”

Source: Viet Nam News

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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