Then singing, the soul of the Tay

Then singing has for ages been kept as a treasure by the Tay in Pheo village, Lao Cai province because the folk singing carries the cultural and historical values of the Tay, and is regarded as the soul of this ethnic group.

We met then folk singer Nong Van Sin at Long Tong festival on a spring day. In his 50s, Nong Van Sin was proud and happy when singing while playing his dan tinh (three-stringed musical instrument) to lead Pheo village’s then singing guild in charming dances.

Nong Van Sin said he has been singing then songs since he was a child. For more than 30 years, Sin and his dan tinh have been to remote areas in northwest Vietnam, from the Tay’s spring festivals to traditional rituals at their homes.

“It’s fun to travel to different places singing then. But I’m happier singing the folk songs with my villagers and setting up our own singing guild to perform and teach ancient then songs to young people”, said Nong Van Sin.

Nong Van Sin has been singing then songs for more than 30 years.

Then singing of the Tay was recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage.

The Then singing group of Pheo village practice ancient then songs.

Then singing, which includes dancing, singing and music, holds historical and cultural values of the Tay.

The Then singing group of Pheo village practice ancient Then songs.

Then singing is a national cultural space and a diverse folk artwork that reflects all aspects of life.

Then musical instruments and costumes.

Apart from ceremonial singing of ancient then songs, newsongs are composed by then singers on the basic of ancient melodies.

Then singing guild in Pheo village, Xuan Giang commune, Bao Thang district, has more than 10 members who regularly practice and perform at the village’s festivals. It is also known across Lao Cai province for winning prizes at art performance events and competitions at district and provincial levels.

In their performances, Pheo village’s then singers wear a unique headdress, which is the Tay’s traditional scarf, according to Nong Van Sin.

Tay women used to wear this headdress, which, however, has been abandoned. Members of the then singing guild have ordered the making of these headdresses with a desire to revive old traditions of the Tay.

For his part, Nong Van Sin has made 10 dan tinh by himself. It took him two years to finish them. Making a dan tinh involves complicated phases from choosing the material, testing the sound and conducting a ritual to ask for the god’s permission to play the instrument.

Besides singing ancient songs, then singers in Pheo village also compose new then songs praising the beauty of their homeland.

Then singing constitutes a form of cultural and spiritual activities and a type of folk music. Then is composed of nearly 4,000 verses, reflecting all aspects of life. The folk singing has long been a religious and cultural practice of Tay, Nung and Thai ethnic groups in the northern mountainous region of Vietnam.

By Tran Hieu