|A Xoan singing performance at Lai Len Temple. (Photo: hanoimoi.com.vn)
Xoan singing, also called “Hat cua dinh” (singing at the communal house), is related to worshipping the gods and combines poetry, music, singing, and dancing.
Lai Len Temple is an important relic site, where worshipping rituals and community activities still take place. Inside the temple is a showroom displaying precious documents on Xoan singing.
It is thought that Xoan singing first appeared during the time of the Hung Kings, the founders of the Vietnamese nation, thousands of years ago.
“According to legend, a Hung King searching for a place to construct his citadel saw a group of herd boys and girls playing and singing “Dong dao” – an oral folk poetry of children in Vietnam. The King stopped to talk to the children and taught them how to sing the songs in poetic rhythm. This was the beginning of Xoan singing,” said Mr. Nguyen Xuan Hoi, the caretaker of Lai Len temple.
A Xoan singing performance normally has three phrases: Worship singing, Ritual singing, and Festive singing.
Worship singing commemorates the Hung Kings and prays for the villagers’ happiness and prosperity. Ritual singing, or “Hat qua cach”, accompanies royal festivities. It usually takes place in a communal house yard or a temple yard. Festive singing is call-and-response singing between boys and girls and takes place at village festivals.
“The performance of Xoan for worshipping rituals is quite different from other kinds of Xoan singing. The performers must sing in a more formal way,” said Ms. Le Thi Nhan from the Thet Xoan singing guild in Kim Duc commune.
Mr. Nguyen Van Thuyet of Kim Duc commune said locals perform Xoan melodies in the traditional way. She
“There are a lot of Xoan melodies. In our Xoan guild, we still follow the singing style of our predecessors. You need to practice a lot and have a great passion to be able to perform Xoan singing,” he said.
|Visitors join a Xoan singing performance (Photo: svhttdl.phutho.gov.vn)
The lyrics of Xoan singing recount legends from the time of the Hung Kings and speak of the homeland, the land, work, and love.
Xoan songs are usually performed by a guild led by its chief. There are male instrumentalists and female singers who are accompanied by dancers. The head of a Xoan guild is normally the senior Xoan performer in the village.
“After Xoan singing was recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, we met with veteran artists and schools to discuss the preservation of Xoan singing. We hope the younger generation will learn the ancient Xoan songs and preserve them,” said Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Hoa of Kim Duc commune’s Department of Culture and Society.