Artisan makes efforts to preserve spiritual singing

Wednesday, 2019-03-13 16:49:39
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Folk artisan Trong Quynh (leftmost) is teaching young learners. (Photo: NDO/Ngoc Lien)
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NDO – Located in Hanoi’s Hoang Cau Street, the hat van (spiritual singing) class taught by folk artisan Trong Quynh has attracted many young people who have a passion for traditional national arts.

Classes such as these are significantly contributing to preserving UNESCO-recognised intangible cultural heritages.

Compared with other traditional art genres, hat van appeared earlier and has become not only a unique performance art but also an important musical element in the cultural practice ritual of the Mother Goddess Worship of Vietnamese people. Spiritual singing requires specific rules and practices, therefore, those who wish to learn hat van must thoroughly grasp its rules and know the words by heart.

With a varied singing style, sometimes the melodies of hat van are bustling, sometimes they are velvety, soft and slow. With supporting instruments, hat van songs are more attractive for listeners. Hat van is not only difficult but also requires singers to improvise their flexibly to transcribe the words, rhythms and vocals.

According to artisan Trong Quynh, hat van is no longer confined to the hau dong (spirit mediumship) ritual, it has been considered as a stage performance. Being a judge in some contests and programmes, artisan Quynh said that hat van singers must play instruments while singing and beating phach (wooden sticks).

New learners should thoroughly grasp the rhythm firstly, then read the sentence according to rhythm and learn the words by heart before singing with music. It is crucial to keep the core and rules to exude the beauty of this traditional folk art.

It is very difficult to study hat van, so if learners do not have a great passion and do not persevere, they will give up. Artisan Trong Quynh’s class regularly receives new students. New comers listen, observe and perceive gradually, while the previous learners instruct and transmit their experience. In addition to sharing with students about the beautiful values of hat van, he has always encouraged them to pursue the passion for this folk art. He noted that with a deep knowledge of tunes, beat, melody and the meaning of the words, leaners will automatically fall in love with hat van.

Learning Hat van words by heart is also a ‘challenge’ for learners. So far, there have been around 60-70 preserved hat van songs, including those with over ten pages of words. Therefore, it is not easy for learners to remember the lyrics. Meanwhile, young people have faced difficulties in approaching the sources of standard songs, so they sang with inaccurate lyrics.

While teaching their students, artisan Trong Quynh had to teach techniques while correcting and analysing the meaning of each sentence for them. The nearly 30-year-old architect, Van Hung, has a great love for Quan ho (love duet singing), hat xam (blind busker's singing) and hat van. Despite difficulties in learning hat van, he always encouraged himself to try his best.

Originating from an actor of the Central Cai Luong (reformed theatre) Theatre, in order to become a folk artisan, Trong Quynh used to perform at many temples and learnt from exemplary predecessors. With the aspiration of bringing hat van closer to the public, Trong Quynh is continuing to learn and impart their valuable experiences to the younger generations. He wished that youngsters will receive more knowledge of this unique folk genre, contributing to honouring and preserving the valuable cultural capital that the forefathers left.