Youth of Hanoi Embrace Traditional Folk Music

Young people in Hanoi are taking on the task of preserving the cherished traditional music of Vietnam's culture.

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On a Saturday night in October, the Quan Ho Bac Ninh folk singing class of the Cheo 48h Club at the Quan Nhan Community House in Thanh Xuan District, Hanoi, is bustling with activity.

Inspiring young people

The young Lien Anh and Lien Chi or singers of the Quan Ho Folk Singing of the Cheo 48h Club. Photo: Cheo 48h Club

Wearing traditional silk tunics, raven-beak scarves, and flat palm hats, nearly 20 young people in their 20s skillfully perform “Nguoi oi nguoi o dung ve” (Guest, Please! Don’t rush home), one of the most popular Quan Ho songs with a soothing melody, often sung at the end of a meeting or to close a traditional Vietnamese festival.

Although their voices may not yet be as clear as those of experienced Quan Ho singers, their enthusiasm in preserving humanity’s intangible cultural heritage is commendable.

For many years, traditional music genres such as Cheo (Vietnamese opera), Hat Xam (folk music popular in Northern Vietnam), and Quan Ho have been predominantly enjoyed by the elderly. However, in Hanoi, young people have taken a keen interest in listening to and singing these ancient melodies, preserving and promoting the old art forms inherited from their ancestors.

The Cheo 48h Club, an association of young people dedicated to promoting folk melodies, has been active for almost 10 years. They currently hold weekend singing classes for folk music enthusiasts of all ages.

Thuy Trang, a student at Hanoi National University and a member of the club, shares that she has been practicing Quan Ho singing there for over three months. Immersing herself in folk songs every weekend night provides a much-needed relaxation after long and stressful days of studying.

“Since I was a child, I have always had an affinity for traditional culture. I prefer the weathered pages of books over e-readers, and instead of electronic music, I often listen to folk songs to relieve stress and relax,” she expresses.

“I find Quan Ho melodies not only captivating but also meaningful. I feel truly proud of my Vietnamese heritage when I wear a traditional four-piece dress and a Quai Thao conical hat,” she adds.

Young members of Cheo 48h Club.

Nguyen Hoang Hiep, Chairman of the Cheo 48h Club, shares that their initiative started in 2014 when electronic music was trending.

“At that time, we came up with the name ‘Cheo 48h – Toi cheo ve que huong’ or ‘Cheo 48h – Back to Homeland,’ which symbolized our aim to reconnect with our cultural roots. In the subsequent years, incorporating folk music into contemporary works has become a growing trend,” he explains.

Striving to preserve traditional values

The Cheo 48h Club not only focuses on practicing Quan Ho but also other folk melodies. The young students put in diligent effort to participate in weekend performances on Hanoi pedestrian streets.

Their passion for traditional art has captivated many spectators, while the older generation of singers can rest assured that the art form will continue to thrive.

The young generation’s passion for Vietnamese folk melodies ensures their eternity. Photo: Cheo 48h Club

Pham Thi Hanh, a spectator of Vietnamese folk melodies and a mother of three teenagers, desires for her children to experience traditional tunes to deepen their understanding of Vietnamese culture.

“My children are usually engrossed in modern games and entertainment venues in downtown Hanoi. Therefore, it is important for them to learn about the culture of their ancestors. We need more folk music clubs like Cheo 48h and more folk performances for both children and adults,” she asserts.

In agreement, Dinh Thao, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Intangible Cultural Heritage Promotion Center, emphasizes that many young people possess an enthusiasm and creativity for preserving folk culture.

“However, traditional arts are often unfamiliar to the younger generation, who have limited exposure to them. I see the youths at the Cheo 48h Club as the successors who will maintain and develop this art form. Their passion and hard work are inspiring,” Thao remarks.

Thao further notes that in its early years, the club mainly gave concerts abroad. Since 2019, its focus has shifted towards activities within the country, fostering communities and supporting youth clubs in keeping traditional art alive and flourishing.

The flame of love for traditional art still remains among young Hanoians.

In the future, the Center will continue its collaboration with the club to preserve and promote the value of intangible heritage and assist young people in creatively preserving and maintaining their identity through folk music genres.

The Cheo 48h Club trains a significant number of folk music enthusiasts. In their classes, experienced artisans methodically teach the lyrics, beats, vibrato, staccato, and acting techniques, as well as the selection of appropriate ancient costumes for traditional songs.

Young Vietnamese individuals who perform folk melodies for tourists, especially foreign visitors, not only bridge cultures but also spread the love for traditional arts among a wider community.

Vietnamese folk melodies may have become somewhat less popular in recent times, but they still flow like a warm sea current beneath the ice of time, waiting for someone to bring them to the surface.