Hat Xoan in the Ancestors’ Land

Discussion in 'Vietnam culture' started by Sona, Dec 8, 2008.

  1. Sona Newbie

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2008
    Message Count:
    325
    Hat xoan (singing Xoan songs) is an invaluable cultural heritage of the local people in Phu Tho Province, the ancestors’ land. To preserve and develop this art form, the singing groups have constantly taught the young generations traditional folk songs imbued with love for their native land, contributing to diversifying the Vietnamese folklore treasure.

    [IMG]
    Artisan Nguyen Thi Hai, 84 years old, teaches the young generation ancient Xoan songs.


    Going to the origin of folk songs

    Located over 10km away from Viet Tri City, Thet Village in Kim Duc Commune, Phu Ninh District, Phu Tho Province has an appearance of an old village of the northern mid-land, with thatch roofed houses and earthen walls lying under the shade of palm trees.

    [IMG]
    Members of An Thai Xoan-singing group practise for the performance at the village’s festival.


    According to 76-year-old Nguyen Ngoc Bao, a member of the directorial committee of the Hat xoan group in Thet Village, Thet, Phu Duc, Kim Dai and An Thai Villages are the cradles of Xoan songs.

    Hat xoan appeared long ago, from when the Hung Kings established the country. According to elders in the villages, at that time Hat xoan was usually organised in front of the communal house during the village festivals in the spring, hence it is also called Hat cua dinh (singing in front of the communal house). Hat xoan is organized not only to entertain the villagers and honour the Hung Kings but also to pray for clement weather and good harvests, praise the natural landscapes and depict the work and daily activities in rural areas.

    [IMG]
    Thet Village’s Xoan-singing group attracts the participation of many generations.


    Hat xoan is very difficult to learn. It requires the singer’s good voice, appearance and gestures. To convey the emotion of the song, the performer must sing from the heart. The old Hat xoan has a total 14 tempos, each being very long. The singer must be proficient in the rhythm before starting to learn the song lyrics. The songs are attached with one another by movements, dances and performance in different scenes. The musical instruments are only a small drum and castanets. In the past, young people who did not join Hat xoan groups or associations had to learn singing Xoan songs. It is said that those who didn’t sing the songs would find it difficult to marry.

    [IMG]
    Members of An Thai Xoan-singing group learn Hat xoan.


    Each Hat xoan group consists of 10-15 people led by a principal singer. The costume of a male singer includes a four-flapped gown, a turban and white trousers and the costumes of a female singer includes a five-flapped gown, a white loose-fitting blouse, a belt, brassiere bands of different colours and silk trousers. The combination between the singing voice and costumes of the singer makes the songs profound and attractive.

    [IMG]
    The musical instruments for Hat xoan are only a small drum and castanets.


    Preserving and developing the old Xoan songs

    Visiting Hat xoan groups in Phu Tho Province, people are much impressed with the old people’s aspiration to preserve and develop the old Xoan songs. At present the number of excellent Xoan singers in Hat xoan groups is decreasing and most of people who have been connected with the folk songs are old. Meanwhile, young people who left their native land feel unfamiliar with the old songs. With a view to preserving the valuable treasure left by their forefathers, Hat xoan groups have spent money buying the musical instruments and outfits and practise singing Xoan songs to present a catalyst for young people to follow the tradition.

    [IMG]
    Performing Xoan songs brings happiness to the artists of An Thai Xoan-singing group.

    Apart from performing in the village on the occasions of festivals and public holidays, Hat xoan groups in Thet and An Thai Villages regularly organize joint performances and go to other provinces and cities or abroad to perform. They are ready to provide performances as requested by communities, helping popularize and preserve this art form.

    [IMG]
    Artisan Nguyen Thi Lich, 60 years old, in An Thai Xoan-singing group, has devoted her life to preserving Xoan songs.

    The artisans in Hat xoan groups constantly organize classes to teach Xoan-singing. Old Nguyen Thi Lich from the An Thai group is one of the artisans most active in organizing Xoan-singing classes. The class is opened in the yard of the communal house. No fee is required. Both teacher and students have a passion for singing and merging themselves into the emotional and velvety Xoan songs. Each class has 20 students, most of whom are 14 to 15 years old. The training time is several months, enough for the students to basically grasp the old Xoan songs. Nguyen Thi Lich said: “I teach the students the songs orally and correct each tune and dance movement. Now the Xoan-singing classes are attracting an increasing number of young people, even children of 10 to 11 years old”. These Xoan-singing buds will become valuable seeds of this art form, which has been considered as an invaluable cultural heritage of the ancestors’ land.

    (VNpictorial)

Share This Page