Music researcher Nguyen Quang Long: traditional music needs enthusiastic inspirers

Saturday, 2019-04-06 12:16:17
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Ha Thanh Xam group always focuses on finding new features to attract young people.
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NDO – Young people will not turn their backs on traditional music if enthusiastic inspirers are mobilised and the State issues long-term polities to preserve folk art forms.

Music researcher Nguyen Quang Long, who is enthusiastically devoted to Xam (blind busker's singing), granted an interview to Nhan Dan Weekly Newpaper’s reporter.

Q: We always say that young people are turning their backs on traditional music. After many years of learning ‘Xam’ and bring it closer to the youth, how do you assess the younger generation’s reception?

A: We must directly bring traditional music to the younger generation so that we can understand whether they will turn their backs or not. However, there is the fact that traditional music is not for the masses. Over 100 years ago, octave music was the only kind in Vietnam. However, since the French culture entered the country, Western music quickly dominated the life of Vietnamese people.

We need to accept that traditional music attracts few audiences, but they are very subtle. Each time we organised events highlighting traditional music, at least 50 spectators attended, including many young people, even 5-year-old and 7-year-old children.

Traditional music cannot become a popular culture in the present context because the times and the living space have changed. However, we should create a specific space for traditional music types. That is the identity that can help us identify who we are, where we come from and what we own. In addition, we will set out preferential policies for traditional arts and groups of artists.

Q: In your opinion, can the preservation activities convince young people to access traditional music?

A: My point of view is to work hard to make traditional arts exist in daily life. If we do not accept the new features but only sing old songs, we cannot develop the beautiful Vong Co (southern folk songs) and Cai Luong (reformed opera) songs. The new features may not be immediately received but they are the inevitable movement of life. Regarding Xam singing, if we still play songs that are too sad or monotonous, it is very difficult to attract anyone, particularly the youth. We must preserve the tradition, however, it should be essential to compose new compositions that are imbued with the characteristics of the folk art. For example, ina Xam song titled ‘Pho thu’ (Streets in Autumn) by singer Thu Phuong, the spirit of modern music exists in the folk music, which can connect Xam lovers and light music audiences.

Q: However, careless development will distort traditional values. How can we bring traditional music closer to young people without losing its origin?

A: It is crucial to thoroughly learn the origin and spirit of the types of traditional music to properly innovate. If we identify the original copies and develop them into a grandiose project or movement, we will fail. Quan Ho (love duet singing) and Cai luong (reformed theatre) were popular art forms in the past, so they can be developed widely. However, this way should be applied for specific arts such as Xoan singing and Ca tru (ceremonial singing). Moreover, the honour of veteran artists is very necessary to encourage them to inspire the love of traditional music for younger generations.

The lack of supporting policies

Q: As you said, is there a shortage of enthusiastic inspirers?

A: We are gradually developing a community of traditional music lovers. The spread of Xam singing has seen positive signals in recent years with many clubs, consisting of nearly 100 people, in Hanoi, Hai Phong, Vinh Phuc, Ninh Binh, Ba Ria – Vung Tau. In order to achieve this result, veteran artists, such as Prof. Dr. Pham Minh Giang, musician Thao Giang, artist Thanh Binh, People’s Artist Xuan Hoach, artist Thanh Ngoan and artist Mai Tuyet Hoa, have made efforts to inspire the love of folk culture among younger generations. We always focus on exploiting new elements to enrich the Xam art in particular and traditional arts in general.

However, several traditional art forms have not been made accessible to youths due to lack of inspirers. We need enthusiastic contributors.

Q: Is the investment fund for the restoration and preservation of traditional music large?

A: Xam singing has been successfully brought closer to young people. However, the success has been mainly thanks to the efforts from individuals who love this art form. Its spread will be greater if the State issues supporting policies.

In modern life, we should combine many factors, including theory, research, performance and media organisation, in order to develop traditional music types.

The investment funds for traditional culture are large but they have been used mostly for research and restoration projects. Meanwhile, the development of traditional art forms in daily life has not received enough attention.

Q: Are you confident and optimistic about the traditional music’s attraction to young audiences?

A: I am just optimistic that there are always young people who will listen to and love traditional music. However, in order to spread the art forms widely, it is crucial to set out strategies on training outstanding artists as well as researching the art forms’ identities and raising the knowledge about both traditional and contemporary arts among audiences.

Music is a door that can open many values in the life, making people more honest and cultured. However, there has not been a long-term policy. We should develop really useful projects, as well as practical activities to reproduce the space of traditional culture, improve vales and create favourable conditions for young people to learn about them. The conservation work only focuses on keeping historical values. If their living space is lost, the traditional art forms will fall into oblivion.

Thank you very much!

HANH NGUYEN
Translated by NDO