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.
The recognition was made during the 14th session of the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, held in Bogota, Colombia, on December 12 (local time).
Addressing the session, director of the Department of Cultural Heritage Le Thi Thu Hien pledged to take necessary measures to protect the values of Then singing.
According to the committee, the practice has met five criteria for being named on the list.
Then singing is an essential part of the spiritual life of the Tay, Nung and Thai ethnic minority groups, and practised in many northern provinces, including Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Thai Nguyen, Lang Son, Ha Giang, Quang Ninh, Son La, Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Bac Giang and Yen Bai, and the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak.
Then performance reflects the cultural characteristics of those ethnic groups, from music to dancing and musical instruments.
The ethnic groups believe Then singing was handed down from a God belonging to a mysterious world to which only Ông Then and Bà Then can contact.
During rituals, Ông Then and Bà Then sing and play a musical instrument at the same time while presenting offerings to the god, thus contacting the deity on behalf of the community and asking him for things such as good health, bumper crops, happiness and a long life.
As a unique combination of music and song, Then singing is traditionally accompanied by a handmade gourd lute, called đàn tính or tính tẩu.
The art form, which combines a wide range of arts such as literature, music, painting and performance, has had an impact on local and national identities through its influence on literature, language, poetry, music, dance, rituals and spiritual practices.
Closely linked with the spiritual life of ethnic minority groups who often use ceremonial offerings to treat illnesses, Then singing is also seen as a therapy, together with medicine, helping to ease the worries of patients and their families.
Then singing was included in Vietnam’s list of intangible heritages in 2012. — VNS
“Then” is a ritual singing genre of the Tay ethnic people. Female and male Then singers perform Then in front of the altars at sacred places.
Hundreds of artisans, artists, and village elders from many regions across the country gathered in Hanoi in a special programme aiming to promote the cultural identities of ethnic communities.