Xoan singing, a traditional Vietnamese folk music genre, was included on the UNESCO Urgent Safeguarding List in 2011 due to a decline in its appreciation, especially among the younger generation. Efforts made by local communities and national authorities have successfully revived and preserved Xoan singing.
In Phuong Lau Commune, Viet Tri City, elders are passing down the art of Xoan singing to the younger generation in a small house located in Xoan An Thai Ward.
Bui Viet Hao and Bui Nhu Quynh, both born into a family of Xoan singers, were introduced to the art at an early age by their grandparents and mother. Having developed a passion for Xoan singing, they now perform the music genre in various places and are eager to preserve it for future generations.
Phu Tho province has played a significant role in promoting and preserving Xoan singing. Over 100 successors have been trained in the province, capable of teaching Xoan singing. In local villages, three generations of singers can be found, with 13 additional Xoan singers from Phu Tho being awarded the title of “Meritorious Artist” by the State President.
Nguyen Thi Bien and Bui Thi Luong, residents of Xoan An Thai Ward in Phuong Lau Commune, Viet Tri City, are among the Xoan singers who received this prestigious recognition. The community is delighted by the Party and the State’s acknowledgment of their efforts and is determined to teach, preserve, and prevent the loss of this cultural heritage.
Phu Tho province has upheld the community’s role in preserving this traditional singing, which dates back thousands of years to the establishment of the Vietnamese nation. From the original Xoan troupes, the music genre has spread to 13 districts, towns, and cities. Currently, there are 34 provincial Xoan singing clubs with over 1,500 members, a considerable increase from before Xoan was listed by UNESCO. Xoan singing is also practiced at 64 district-level clubs and 42 commune-level clubs, with numerous participants.
Pham Thi Bich, a member of a Xoan singing club for the elderly, expressed her newfound appreciation for Xoan singing. She found the lyrics to be humane, capturing the daily lives and production of people from long ago. Xoan singing has become a cherished tradition.
In an effort to familiarize the younger generation with Xoan singing, it has been included in music lessons and extracurricular activities in schools throughout Phu Tho province. Contests and performances of Xoan singing have also been organized.
Nguyen Chau Anh, a student at Gia Cam Primary School, initially found Xoan singing challenging. However, through activities outside the classroom and participation in a Xoan singing club, they have become more familiar with the songs.
Bui Thi Tuyet Mai, a teacher at Gia Cam Primary School, expressed her hope that teaching Xoan singing will continue to be a part of the general education program and spread to schools across the province.
Phu Tho province has renovated communal houses and shrines where Xoan singing is performed, turning them into unique tourism attractions. The provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism focuses on improving the preservation space for cultural heritage and organizing more music classes. They are also collecting materials to restore rituals and practices and plan to complete audio recordings of Xoan songs for broader dissemination and teaching purposes.
Today, the echoes of Xoan singing can be heard throughout Phu Tho province, Vietnam’s ancestral land. It serves as a connection between the community and amplifies the beauty of Vietnamese folk art.