Efforts to revive Xam singing

by VTV425 April 2016 Last updated at 16:01 PM

Photo: VTV4
Photo: VTV4

VTV.vn - Xẩm singing is a type of traditional folk music which originated in rural northern Vietnam in the 14th century. Xẩm music is known for its profound storytelling and two-string fiddle.

Xẩm singing is a type of traditional folk music that has been performed in public places for centuries. However, Xẩm singing only gained public attention some 10 years ago, compared with other traditional music genres that have been well-preserved for decades.

Due to a misconception that the genre was merely the ditties of beggars and the blind, Xẩm nearly disappeared in the 20th century.

Nguyen Thao Giang, director of Vietnam Centre for Music Development said: “In 2005, we found some 20 Xam singing artisans, but now, only 2 or 3 of them are still alive. What’s also difficult now is that there aren’t many documents about Xam songs so it’s a real challenge to preserve and develop Xam based on its original form”.

Facing the urgent situation, many Vietnamese artists have actively attempted to restore Xam and revive this traditional music genre. Starting from 2005, original Xam songs were recorded in music videos. Using the original rhythm of Xam, the Xam Ha Thanh group of young musicians has recently created new lyrics about emerging issues in modern life such as illegal logging or stock market.

Nguyen Quang Long, Xam Singer, Xam Ha Thanh Group said: “We infuse new elements in Xam to attract the attention of young people. They will then like Xam melodies and then maybe the older Xam songs”.

For over 10 years now, a weekly show in Hanoi’s Old Quarter has become a popular destination for tourists and local people to listen to Xam singing.

Nguyen Thi Tam, audience said: “I have attended this show for over 10 years. I love it because I listened Xam songs all of my childhood at the markets or on the trams. So after a week of hard work, it’s very refreshing to come here and listen to Xam”.

Nguyen Khanh Lam, audience said: “Xam melodies show me the spirit of the rural area and how my grandparents lived in the past”.

Besides the effort to popularise Xam in the public, researchers and artists have also started training new generations of Xam singers and researchers. The Vietnam Centre for Music Development with the leadership of artist Thao Giang has successfully trained 20 Xam artists at university level and 6 are studying for master's degree.

Le Xuan Quynh, Vietnam Centre for Music Development said: “We’re the first student generation in the centre and we’ll become teachers to bring Xam to younger generations”.

With the support of these young teachers, the centre has provided Xam classes for some 20 Xam clubs, with some very young participants.

Hoang Thu Trang, student, Vietnam Centre for Music Development said: “I couldn’t express the emotion of the characters correctly at the beginning because I didn’t live in that social context. But with the explanation from the teachers, I have understood and improved my singing”.


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