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Traditional Then singing festival to kick off in May

A festival of traditional then singing, featuring art troupes from 16 provinces and cities in the country, will be held in the mountainous province of Ha Giang on May 13-14.

Then singing is a form of art combining literature, music and dance and has long been a religious and cultural practice of Tay, Nung and Thai ethnic groups in the northern mountainous region of Vietnam during special occasions, such as village festivals. This type of singing is always accompanied by tinh (gourd lute) instrument.

This will be the sixth edition of the National Festival of Traditional Then Singing. The festival aims to honour then singers and artistes as well as preserve and develop the practice of then singing and tinh instrument in modern life.

The festival will provide an opportunity to introduce and popularise unique art forms of the ethnic minorities in the northwest of the country to both domestic and international tourists as well as showcase the tourism potential of the participating provinces, according to the organisation board.

Many activities, including a photo exhibition with the theme “Then-Tay, Nung, Thai, Vietnam Cultural Heritages”, will be held as part of the festival.

Artisans and art troupes from the northern, central and southern provinces, such as Cao Bang, Thai Nguyen, Dak Lak and HCM City, will perform different types of then singing.

Then is performed during significant events, such as prayer ceremonies for peace, good crops and good health, as well as to bring cheer and drive away sorrows.

Then is said to have originated in the late 15th century during the rule of Mac Dynasty. Legend has it that in Mac Dynasty, there were two kings who had special love for music and singing. They developed a handmade gourd lute called dan tinh and established two singing troupes to perform at the royal court. Ordinary people found it interesting and started learning it, preserving this form of singing till date.

Last year, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism signed a dossier on then singing practice of the Tay, Nung and Thai ethnic groups of Vietnam for submission to UNESCO asking for the singing form’s recognition as part of the intangible cultural heritage.