Binh Lieu district in Quang Ninh province is known for beautiful, peaceful scenic spots. It’s also known for Then singing and making Tinh instruments.
“When talking about the Tay, people always mention Then singing accompanied by the Tinh musical instrument. In the past Then singing was performed at every ritual. Today new lyrics have been written for old Then tunes to reflect modern life, but Then singing and the Tinh instrument are still an indispensible part of Tay life,” said To Anh Hieu, Deputy Director of Binh Lieu district’s Cultural Center.
|Tay women sing Then and play the Tinh musical instrument.
Nobody knows when the Tinh musical instrument was created. A fairy tale says that in the old days, a strong man named Xien Can could sing and play music beautifully. He was grown but had no wife. He went to Heaven to consult the Mother Goddess, who gave him a musical instrument with 7 strings which were hairs of a fairy.
When Xien Can went back to earth and played the musical instrument, miraculously a house and a large rice field appeared. A beautiful girl wife was in the house. His music was so beautiful it made people neglect their farm work, so the Mother Goddess descended to earth to reclaim the 7 fairy hairs and substituted three silk threads. Since then, the Tinh musical instrument has had just 3 strings, which represent national prosperity, national power, and love.
The Tinh musical instrument has never lost its attraction. It accompanies Then singing for every performance.
“I can sing Then. When I heard Tinh music, I learned to play and make it. I’m old now but I still make it. It’s my passion and it helps preserve the Tay culture,” said Luong Thiem Phu, President of the Then singing and Tinh musical instrument Club of Tinh Huc commune, Binh Lieu district.
The Tinh musical instrument is 117cm long and has a body made from a calabash. The calabash should be round without any cracks or scratches. The maker chooses an old calabash and soaks it in water for 8 to 10 days to remove the insides. Then the calabash is dried in the sun for several days. The maker cut away one third of the calabash and glues a wood plate on it to make the body.
The Tinh musical instrument of the Tay in Binh Lieu has inspired many song writers. Do Hoa An, who wrote the song “Lyrics of a Tinh musical instrument”, says: “The Tinh musical instrument of the Tay looks ordinary but the sound is pleasant and unique.”
Then singing ritual has been recognized as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage. Many Then singers and Tinh musicians have been honored as Emeritus Artists and Vietnamese Folklore Artisans.