Reviving Traditional Music: Hanoi’s Artist Nurtures a Dream

Nguyen Quang Long, a musician with 30 years of experience in traditional music, has played a significant role in the revival of xam, a form of blind wanderer singing. His expertise and dedication have made him a key figure in preserving and promoting this ancient art form. Through his performances and compositions, Nguyen Quang Long has brought xam to new heights, captivating audiences with his soulful melodies and powerful vocals. His passion for xam and his commitment to preserving its rich cultural heritage have earned him widespread recognition and acclaim. As a true master of his craft, Nguyen Quang Long's contributions to the revival of xam are invaluable, ensuring that this unique art form continues to thrive and inspire future generations.

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During the festive season of Tet (Lunar New Year), the streets are filled with beautiful peach blossoms as preparations are made for the upcoming celebration. Musician Nguyen Quang Long, known for his expertise in traditional Xam music, has recently shared his latest music video titled Xam Tet Viet (a song about the Vietnamese Lunar New Year) with The Hanoi Times.

Being born in the Year of the Dragon (1976), Nguyen Quang Long has big plans for the Year of the Dragon in 2024, as it marks his 30th year in the music industry.

Often referred to as the “archaeologist” of Xam art, Long is renowned for his efforts in rediscovering and preserving many classic Xam songs.

Originating from Bac Ninh, a northern province known for its traditional love duet singing called Quan ho, Long grew up in a musical family and developed a passion for music from a young age.

 Musician Nguyen Quang Long and the Xam Ha Thanh group. Photo: The Hanoi Times

In 2005, while working at the Recording House (Dihavina), Long’s interest in Xam music was ignited when he met musician Thao Giang, who shared his enthusiasm for revitalizing this traditional art form. Long joined Giang and other artists at the Vietnam Center for the Development of Musical Arts to revive Xam singing.

Realizing that learning how to sing Xam was the key to preserving this musical genre, Long dedicated himself to mastering the art of Xam singing. Through his research, he not only achieved success as a Xam singer, but also composed contemporary Xam songs that incorporated elements of the modern era. Some of his notable compositions include “Exterminate Pirates” and “Four Seasons of Flowers in Hanoi.”

Long was trained as a singer, but now he’s a researcher of traditional music. Photo: The Hanoi Times

Long infused a contemporary touch into traditional Xam melodies, transforming them into modern pieces that captivate a wider audience. His compositions, such as “Xam Hanoi” and “Destroy Corona,” combine traditional Xam melodies with vibrant rap and EDM.

Together with the group Xam Ha Thanh, Long has brought Xam music to the masses through performances in streets, historical sites, theaters, and even the prestigious Hanoi Opera House. The group has also made Xam performances available on digital music platforms and social networks.

Regarding the evolution of Xam music, Long believes that traditional art must adapt to attract new listeners while still preserving its core essence. He emphasizes the importance of continuity in traditional art forms while ensuring their uniqueness is maintained.

For Long, the joy of his work lies in discovering old manuscripts, meeting veteran artists, also known as “living treasures,” and learning intriguing stories from them.

“Through many field trips, I began to truly understand the meaning behind folk songs. For instance, during my visit to the Central Highlands, I learned that the Ede people of the Bih branch have a set of gongs played exclusively by women. Prior to that, I had always associated gongs with men. The Ede Bih people reside near the Krong Ana river, resulting in a more lyrical style of music compared to other branches living in the mountains. It was a fascinating discovery,” shared Long.

Like many Vietnamese people, Nguyen Quang Long eagerly awaits Tet and cherishes the opportunity to spend more time with Xam, the music that has shaped his life.