Musician Huynh Khai is well-known nationwide for composing a series of heart-moving lyrics for Cai luong (reformed theatre) and Don tai tu (amateur music of southern Vietnam) and his great contributions for preserving and developing the traditional musical genres.
Musician Huynh Khai was born in Thu Thua district in Long An province, one of the cradles of the art of Don ca tai tu. His father is a famous artist performing the Dan nguyet or Dan kim (the two-string Vietnamese traditional musical instrument). When he was a boy, Huynh Khai often went with his father to perform in the region and the sweet lyrics of the music seemed to penetrate into his soul. Seeing Huynh Khai’s ardent passion for music, his father started teaching him singing. Then, he learned by himself through CDs and cassettes. He also learned how to play Dan tranh (the 16-string Zither) and Ghi ta phim lom or Dan kim (lute with six strings) with the instruction of famous artists like Vo Van Khue and Nguyen Van Doi. When moving to Ho Chi Minh City, Huynh Khai participated in the movement of amateur singing and performed on the professional Cai luong stage.
Since 1993, musician Huynh Khai has worked at the traditional musical faculty of the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music. In 2003, he was highly appreciated by his Doctoral thesis entitled “Teaching method of Dan kim in tai tu music, Cai luong stage and new creations for dan kim” which was evaluated as excellent.His research is considered a handbook for those who study Dan kim in amateur singing, Cai luong stage and playing new pieces of music.
Musician Huynh Khai performs on a Dan kim. Photo: File
Musician Huynh Khai and his Dan kim. Photo: Nguyen Luan
Musician Huynh Khai can perform on many traditional musical instruments like Dan kim,
Dan tranh and Dan co (the Vietnamese erhu). Photo: File
Musician Huynh Khai performs in an artistic program entitled “Celebrating the event of Dan ca tai tu”
which was recognised as an intangible heritage of humanity in 2013. Photo: File
Musician Huynh Khai performs at the 60th anniversary of the Ho Chi Minh City
Conservatory of Music in July 2016. Photo: File
Musician Huynh Khai talks with late Prof. Tran Van Khe. Photo: File
Musician Huynh Khai participates in the jury of the program on selecting the best voices of
the week on Ho Chi Minh City’s radio program. Photo: Nguyen Luan
Musician Huynh Khai (middle) performs on a Dan kim in a Dan ca tai tu program. Photo: File
Musician Huynh Khai teaches Don ca tai tu at the traditional musical faculty at the
Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music. Photo: Nguyen Luan
Musician Huynh Khai teaches his students traditional folk music. Photo: Nguyen Luan
Musician Huynh Khai performs Don ca tai tu in southern Vietnam. Photo: Nguyen Luan
At present, working as head of the traditional musical faculty, Huynh Khai and his colleagues have built a curriculum towards preserving and promoting the traditional music. Students are trained basically in terms of techniques in using traditional musical instruments in both traditional and western methods.
Under the enthusiastic instruction of Huynh Khai, many of his students have won prizes at music contests both domestically and internationally and becomes well-known, like Hua Hoang Kha (head of Tran Huu Trang Cai Luong Troupe), Phan Thanh Long (the lecturer at the Ho Chi Minh City Universityof Theatre and Cinema. Talking about his teacher, Hua Hoang Kha said, “Huynh Khai has wholeheartedly devoted himself to the traditional music. I have studied Dan Kim and performed in concert with Huynh Khai for years. Besides professional skills, he has given me valuable experience”.
Despite a busy schedule at the university, Huynh Khai, in his spare time, composes pieces of music for Cai luong and Dan ca tai tu which has won the hearts of thousands of people. His creations include “Nguoc dong (2005), An tinh non nuoc (2008), Ngon don ghi ta Huynh Khai (2007) and tai tu music concert (2007). Story: Son Nghia – Photos: Nguyen Luan & File
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