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Bai Choi singing proposed for UNESCO recognition

Fri, 07 Nov 2014. Last updated Sat, 15 Nov 2014 11:34

Bai Choi singing is one of the most long-lasting traditional folk music of Vietnamese people. The unique Bai Choi singing was recently proposed to UNESCO for recognizing as one of humanity’s intangible cultural heritage for its great cultural values.

In 2012, Bai Choi folksongs was included in the list proposed for UNESCO's recognition in 2012-2016 period, and enrolled in the list of intangible world cultural heritage. Recently, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism assigned Vietnam National Academy of Music to host and coordinate with provinces and cities in which Bai Choi singing is existing to propose for UNESCO recognition as an intangible cultural heritage. The national profile of Bai Choi singing in Central Vietnam officially submitted UNESCO in December this year.


Bai Choi singing - A Vietnamese folk art

Choi Bai - Huts of cards


Dr. Nguyen Binh Dinh, Director of Vietnam National Academy of Music affirmed that among kinds of folk performing arts in countries of East Asia and Southeast Asia, Bai Choi is a form of exciting folk art including ingenious combination of poetry, music, singing, acting, and improvisation. This is a signature kind of demonstration, which is rarely found in others. From a simple form of playing cards separately towards groups, Bai Choi comes up as an art performance with stage bringing professionalism. Bai Choi has a strong vitality, meeting increasing needs of enjoying the art of the public. Bai Choi, a type of folk art and folk games featuring in Central Vietnam, was later developed into a kind of musical theater. This also means Bai Choi has existed for hundred years ago at least. Bai Choi singing is popular in 11 provinces and cities in Central Vietnam from Quang Binh to Binh Thuan words (not including Central Highlands). These provinces in order from north to south are Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Hue, Da Nang, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Khanh Hoa, Ninh Thuan, and Binh Thuan.

In 1902, after finishing the book “La Rousse Misicale", French scholar - G.L Bovier said that Bai Choi was formed and developed since 1470 up until now, 544 years. Bai Choi originated from huts caging wild animals in forests and games in huts, which triggered the formation of Bai Choi groups. In term of art, Bai Choi is an art of prolonging the nerve of players. The ancient name of this form is Ho Thai. In terms of music, Ho Thai is a complete music sentence with unique rhythm, ton, and sound. It is unable to find the extraordinary sound effects in any form of Vietnam traditional art. From melody of Ho Thai, folk artists have created six different tunes, including "Old Spring women, "New Spring Women" (added more sounds, sang softly and pleasantly, besides, there are other unique and exciting traditional melodies. In terms of performing art, according to musician Dang Hoanh Loan, performer and composer as well of begining singing sentence in Bai Choi performance which is called Mr. Hiệu. Mr. Hiệu's art is the key point to create exciting and funny atmosphere of Bai Choi. Bai Choi often takes place in spring, appealing a large number of attendants. Yet, they join not for winning, but seeking for serenity, happiness in early New Year, to immerse in familiar folk songs, along with finding luck and best wishes for a new year. That is the Bai Choi's humanity


Cultural heritage of humanity

Bai Choi performance in Binh Dinh


Musician Dang Hoanh Loan, general director of the national profile of Bai Choi art in Central Vietnam to propose UNESCO for recognizing Bai Choi as an intangible cultural World Heritage. She confirmed Bai Choi is a popular folk art, carrying its own cultural identity of local communities. Bai Choi brings the breath of life, reflecting the cultural diversity and creativity of community and continuity through generations. Historically, so far there has been little thorough research on the history of Bai Choi. However, most of the reviews have said that Bai Choi was born in the 15th century. Although there are many different approaches, according songwriter Tran Hong and musician Truong Dinh Quang, musicians, researchers, and artists agree that Bai Choi is the unique Vietnam folk culture of people in Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, on until the Ninh Thuan Province, Binh Thuan, Dong Nai. Special characteristics of the game Bai Choi and its humanistic meaning are beyond the form of folk art activities. The game is the convergence of showoff and performances. It is the meeting place of the community and becomes an invisible string connecting community, bringing a unique traditional culture of Vietnamese people.

According to musician Dang Hoanh Loan, to build a national art dossier of Bai Choi to propose UNESCO, the first and very important task is the fieldwork. Through fieldwork, the entire value and life of Bai Choi will be determined in communities. And, how the unique folk art is preserved and protected. Each community will have opinions and suggestions about reserving Bai Choi. Because only the community as cultural subject can give the most accurate opinion about Bai Choi, from how the art form was born to process of its survival in communities. Through fieldwork, musicians, cultural researchers, the study of Bai Choi will be built for national record, which creates favorable conditions for those interested in the art to easily access. Also, through fieldwork, all documents, texts, bibliographies, written documents and manuscripts of artisan and community's oral, the collaboration of art personnel and community can easily build the national art profile of Bai Choi to propose UNESCO. In particular, through fieldwork, those making the program have a profound look about Bai Choi to have a scientific approach before building the profile.

The main products of the national  art profile of Bai Choi is scientific dossier registration representing the entire UNESCO's requirements including history, art, literature and commitment of community, consensus of the community when proposing UNESCO for recognizing Bai Choi as an intangible cultural heritage. From the "Ho" (beginning sentence of Bai Choi) - Ho Thai to Bai Choi singing, it is the outstanding development of Bai Choi in terms of art. The development has created a unique art form demonstration of Bai Choi in Vietnam. The solo art form has contributed to the appearance of unique art and Vietnamese culture in Central Vietnam. The cultural product deserves to have a place in the treasure of folk cultural World Heritages in Vietnam. This kind of art is the root giving birth to musical stage of South Central Bai Choi with different names. It is the reason why Bai Choi deserves to be nominated for UNESCO's appraisal and recognition as an intangible cultural heritage.

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