The Nung live mostly in high mountains and forests. Their remote and isolated living environment is ideal condition for preserving their cultural features, including folk songs.
They sing about their daily lives and production, reflecting their sentiments and emotions towards life and nature.
The Nung have many folk singing genres including love dual-singing, “luon” singing, “Sli” singing, and citation.
Each Nung branch, such as the Nung Din, Nung An, Nung Chao, and Nung Phan Slinh have modified the lyrics and melodies.
Nung Phan Sin said, “The song lyrics have educational value and are passed from generation to generation. I learned by listening to old people singing at festivals. Up till now, I haven’t forgotten any song. The folk songs are about morality, life, and production skills. For example, folk songs teach us how to grow rice.”
The Nung don’t have a written language and they have handed down the folk songs to posterity by way of an oral tradition. People of each generation would improvise the lyrics and modify the songs.
Then Thi Huong, a Nung Din woman, said, “We find it difficult to learn Nung Din’s folk songs because we don’t have texts. Old people teach us word by word.”
“Sli” singing is an original genre of Nung folk song. The singers, often couples, sing about the things around them but actually talk about their love and aspirations to prosperity and happiness in life.
They sing everywhere – at festivals or at a house-warming ceremony, or when they meet each other in the fields. They show off their voices as well as their ability in dual-singing.
Hoang Van Pao, a cultural official in Lang Son province, said, “The Nung sing “Sli” when they go to the fields, when they are on the way home, or when boys suddenly see some girls and they want to call for a conversation.”