Friday, 08/04/2011 09:36

Hoi An folk music makes comeback

HOI AN — Bai choi, 1,000-year-old folk music that is performed like a card game, is seeing a revival in the central ancient town of Hoi An.

It had disappeared for a while and in its new avatar is attracting foreign tourists and researchers.

One Swiss tourist lingered in Hoi An for a month though she had intended to stay for just two weeks.

At first she did not understand anything about bai choi but found it pleasing on the ear and eye.

She went on to register at a free bai choi class at the Hoi An Cultural Centre.

Soon, several foreign visitors too signed up for the class, mostly from Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Australia and France.

Luong Dang, 54, a bai choi singer who was bestowed the title of "Meritorious Artist" two years ago – the only one in Quang Nam Province to be thus honoured – says he taught a Japanese tourist to sing bai choi in 2005.

She promptly fell in love with the art despite not getting the hang of bai choi acting and how to use words. But what she lacked by way of understanding, she made up with diligence, not missing a single class.

Dang says it took her three visits to Hoi An to understand the profound meaning of each verse.

He also teaches bai choi to youngsters in Hoi An.

Early start

When he had been just eight, Dang began to go with his grandmother to see bai choi performances every night.

The art began to grow on him and before long he became an accomplished performer himself. Once when he went on a tour with the village bai choi troupe for three months, senior artists were impressed and asked him to join them.

"In 1985, I got the chance to attend a three-month training class in Da Nang in composing and singing folk music from central Viet Nam," he said.

Later he joined a troupe in Cam Ha Commune, before joining the Hoi An Cultural Centre's Bai Choi theatre company in 1990.

After performing for 30 years, Dang has a repertoire of thousands of bai choi songs.

He has also studied other folk music genres like the northern ca tru (ceremonial singing) and southern cai luong (reformed theatre) and uses their influence to enrich bai choi. — VNS

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