Quan Ho is an art form that combines music, lyrics and costumes, and embodies the distinctive culture of the people who live in the region formerly called Kinh Bac (now Bac Ninh province) in northern Vietnam. It’s common at rituals, festivals, competitions, and informal gatherings where guests perform a variety of verses for the hosts before they bid farewell. These love duets were recognized by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage in September 2009.
According to Chairman of the Bac Ninh provincial People’s Committee, Nguyen Tu Quynh, the province has honored its its commitments to UNESCO to preserve and foster this heritage while spreading it throughout Vietnam. Bac Ninh now has nearly 370 Quan Ho villages and more than 380 clubs with over 10,000 members.
A Quan Ho singing club was established more than 2 decades ago in Huu Nghi village in Bac Giang province. Sisters Nguyen Thi Mo and Nguyen Thi Huan, now 80 years old, are still members of the club.
"We learned Quan Ho singing from our older sisters and other ladies in our town and followed them to village festivals and other events. We joined the club after our retirement more than 20 years ago. It’s very difficult to sing ancient Quan Ho ancient versions whose lyrics are often very meaningful, such as 'Offering tea and areca nuts' and 'Burning incense,'" they told VOV.
Head of the club Tran Van The says he, his wife, and many other local artists have opened classes to popularize Quan Ho singing among the younger generation. In Huu Nghi village, even kindergartners can sing a few lines of Quan Ho songs and there are families of up to 4 generations all able to sing Quan Ho songs, according to The.
"Young people in our village love Quan Ho songs and are eager to learn and practice them. It is their responsibility to popularize Quan Ho songs and promote the art among future generations," said The.
The club has organized singing competitions inside and outside the village to introduce Quan Ho to a wider public.