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NDO – The recent programme themed ‘Rang ro mien quan ho’ (Radiance of Love Duet Singing Region) was chosen as the highlight of the 2019 'Visiting the land of Quan Ho (Love Duet) singing' Festival, which is held by the Bac Ninh provincial People’s Committee from February 13-28.

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Quan Ho Folk Songs in Contemporary Life

This event aimed to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the Kinh Bac region, now known as Bac Ninh, to both domestic and international audiences. It commemorated the 10th anniversary of Quan Ho being recognized as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO (2009 – 2019).

Quan Ho singing has become an integral part of festivals in the Kinh Bac region and a significant aspect of local people’s daily lives. In 2019, Quan Ho continued to attract numerous visitors to Bac Ninh Province, especially during the annual Lim Festival.

In addition to preserving and promoting Quan Ho at the Bac Ninh Quan Ho Theatre and the provincial Cultural Centre, the folk art form is widely taught and practiced in schools and within the community. Director of Bac Ninh provincial Department for Culture, Sports, and Tourism, Tran Quang Nam, has reported impressive statistics regarding the preservation and promotion of Quan Ho:

By the end of 2018, Bac Ninh had preserved and developed 44 original Quan Ho villages, with 369 villages actively practicing this art form and 381 clubs. Additionally, there are now 140 Quan Ho clubs operating in other provinces and cities throughout the country, with the highest number in Bac Giang (84 clubs).

Moreover, Bac Ninh has invited numerous artisans and artists to participate in events and programs that help promote the beauty of this cultural heritage both within the country and abroad. Over the past ten years, a total of 1,079 performances have been held, including 916 in the province and 158 in other locations. Quan Ho has also been introduced to audiences in Laos, China, France, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

Quan Ho practice houses, where teaching and exchange activities take place, have been reconstructed in the traditional style. Lim town, Duong Xa area, Viem Xa village, and Thi Cau ward are particularly famous for these practice houses, as they foster a sense of community among Quan Ho enthusiasts. At these venues, younger generations have the opportunity to learn and practice ancient songs and different singing techniques under the guidance of renowned artisans such as Le Can Hong Tinh, musician Duc Mieng, Ngoc Luong, and famous singers.

During the past decade, the provincial Cultural Centre has organized over 20 folk singing classes in eight locations. The Bac Ninh Cultural, Art, and Tourism Intermediate School has also established a dedicated Quan Ho Department, where 360 artists have received training. Notably, the teaching of Quan Ho singing has been included in school curricula since 2011.

Efforts have also been made to collect, adjust, preserve, and reproduce traditional Quan Ho sub-genres, lyrics, music, and customary practices.

Efforts to Preserve the Heritage

To honor the invaluable contributions of artisans in preserving and developing Quan Ho folk arts, Bac Ninh has implemented initiatives. So far, a total of 71 Quan Ho living treasures have been recognized, including 30 who have been awarded the esteemed Artisan title. Additionally, Bac Ninh has proposed to the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism to confer the title of People’s Artisan to three Quan Ho artisans and Meritorious Artisan to 18 others. These awards serve to motivate dedicated artisans like Nguyen Thi Them, from Viem Xa village, Hoa Long commune, who passionately devotes herself to preserving this intangible heritage. “Quan Ho is ingrained in my very being, and I will continue to sing and teach until I can no longer,” says artisan Them.

Despite the significant achievements, Bac Ninh provincial government and its people face challenges in preserving and promoting the value of Quan Ho singing. Certain individuals and organizations have commercialized this art form at festivals, restaurants, and hotels, which has affected its value, image, and unique identity. Additionally, the rapid pace of industrialization and urbanization has resulted in the transformation of original Quan Ho villages into urban areas, gradually diminishing traditional Quan Ho cultural spaces. Therefore, it is crucial to leverage the heritage’s potential as a driving force for tourism development.