Retaining the vitality of ‘Bai Choi’ folk singing

NDO – The constant changes in contemporary life have pushed the art of ‘Bai Choi’ folk singing, which was recognised by the UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, to the brink of being forgotten. However, thanks to the whole-hearted efforts from local residents and authorities of Quang Ngai Province, the art form’s beautiful melodies and vitality have been well preserved and promoted among the younger generation.


According to Meritorious Artisan Vo Duy Khanh from Pho Cuong Commune, Duc Pho District, Bai choi originated hundreds of years ago when Vietnamese people expanded their territory southward. The genre was then promoted by Dao Duy Tu (1572 -1634), an outstanding mandarin under the reign of the Nguyen Lords, to entertain the community during post-harvest time.

Khanh said that Duc Pho District, which borders Hoai Nhon District in Binh Dinh Province, where Dao Duy Tu held residence, is known as the ancestral land of Bai choi.

Over the past year, Duc Pho District’s cultural sector has rolled out every effort to preserve and promote the practice of Bai choi among the younger generation. Bai choi ancient tunes, including ‘xuan nu’, ‘xang xe’ and ‘ho quang’, have been revived at arts contests and festivals, receiving much appreciation from listeners.

Nguyen Thanh Son, Deputy director of Duc Pho District’s Centre for Communications, Culture and Sports, revealed that a training course providing basic knowledge on Bai choi will soon be launched for nearly 100 musical teachers at schools in the locality, with the aim to inspire the love for the ancient folk genre among students.

In addition, Bai choi singing festivals have also been organised in the district, attracting the participation of many contestants and drawing much interest from locals.

Vo Thi Nguyet Vy, a local student, said that although it is difficult to learn Bai choi singing, its melodies are very alluring and beautiful. “I love Bai choi singing so much,” she reiterated, stressing the need to safeguard the country’s time-honoured art form.

It is heartening that the practice of Bai choi singing has been revitalised throughout rural districts of Binh Son and Mo Duc as well as Quang Ngai City. In Mo Duc District in particular, a Bai choi singing club was established one year ago and has attracted the participation of 57 enthusiastic members. The club members have delivered performances at many events and places, contributing to safeguarding and inspiring the love for Bai choi among the public.

Phan Dinh Do, Head of the Office for Cultural Heritage Management under the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that his office is working on a project on safeguarding and promoting Bai choi singing, which focusses on the research and collection of ancient Bai choi melodies in order to popularise the art form among the public and integrate Bai choi into schools’ teaching programmes as well as the province’s tourism development.

Do also spoke highly of the key role played by Bai choi singing art troupes, clubs and practitioners at the grassroot level in preserving and upholding the heritage.

According to Deputy Director of the Quang Ngai Provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism Cao Van Chu, further and wider communication campaigns are needed to raise public awareness on the treasured value of the intangible cultural heritage of Bai choi.

He also called for greater support from the State to facilitate the development and more effective operation of Bai choi singing clubs, groups, art troupes, and practitioners.