“Then” singing is a cultural activity imbued with the belief and art of the Tay and Nung ethnic minority people in Bac Giang province.
As it dates back centuries, no one knows exactly when it first came into being. The ancient land of Luc Ngan district in Bac Giang has been preserving this element of the local cultural identity and sing “Then” songs when Spring comes.
The Tay - Nung ethnic minority group holds the notion that “Then” singers have been sent by the gods to be saviors of the world, and the image of “Then” singers with guitars in their hands is like a fairy among thousands of white clouds.
The distant village of Luc Ngan seems isolated and separate from the outside world, because everything belonging to modern times has little impact on the place. “Then” singing has therefore retained its unique cultural beauty since days long gone.
The deep humming sound of the musical instrument, known in Vietnamese as Dan tinh, accompanying “Then” songs gives listeners a tour into a slightly mysterious realm.
“Then” singing is not only an art form but also boasts spiritual elements, such as praying for a bountiful harvest and blessings. The lyrics are soft and vibrant but sometimes sad and pensive. Each stanza portrays a particular mood accompanied by the sound of the musical instrument, which together with the vocals create a magical atmosphere.
In order for the art form to continue into the future, “Then” singers have taught their craft to the younger generation, since they will be the heirs to these beautiful cultural values.
With passion and a desire to preserve the local culture, “Then” singing clubs in Luc Ngan are popular and are engaged in teaching the younger generation about the artform. Its preservation, however, also requires due regard from local authorities.
The Tay people consider “Then” singing to be not only a ritual in resolving spiritual issues but also a cultural and spiritual activity. When Spring arrives, plum blossoms cover the forest, and Tay people gather together to enjoy “Then” singing. The sound of a harp and the “Then” singing is like a stream flowing from spring to spring, from generation to generation. VNA
The Then singing practice of Vietnam’s Tay, Nung and Thai ethnic groups has been named on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Department of Cultural Heritage said on December 13.
Together with pop singers, traditional artists have also been composing songs to raise spirits and awareness in the fight against coronavirus.