Professor Tran Van Khe, the great master of traditional Vietnamese music, gave a lecture on don ca tai tu Nam bo (Southern amateur music) at his home in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City.
Don ca tai tu Nam bo
is a long standing cultural tradition in the Mekong Delta region since the end of the 19th century.
The professor explained how this music is usually performed in festivals, ceremonious worships, parties, weddings and also funerals. It is traditionally played by southerners in the evening after a long working day.
Amateur musicians and singers who wish to train further and improve their skills in playing this folk music usually gather at a member’s house to play and exchange notes.
Southern amateur music cannot be found on modern day stage or in cultural and tourist festivals. This musical art form, a genre of the old chamber of music, is usually performed on ‘plank beds’ in living rooms in southern traditional homes.
The instruments used are the dan co or dan nhi, a two stringed fiddle; dan tranh or dan thap luc, a 16 string zither; dan kim or dan nguyet (also called the moon guitar) and the doc huyencam (monochord). In present times the monochord has been replaced with a guitar.
According to Mr.Vinh Bao, another master of this traditional Vietnamese music, a special feature of Don ca tai tu is to bring together people who want to share the same emotions and to reach out to the sensibilities of the audience.
However, both the masters lamented that this art form had fallen into the realm of cultural oblivion and felt the need to restore and preserve this valuable cultural heritage.
The Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism has asked the National Music Institute and departments of Culture, Sport and Tourism in the South to build a file on southern music for submission to UNESCO for recognition as an intangible part of the Vietnamese cultural heritage.
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