Trong quan singing, a type of popular art which alternates singing with drum accompaniments, has been performed for over 700 years in Bui Xa Village, Ninh Xa Commune, Thuan Thanh District of northern Bac Ninh Province. Local villagers are well aware of maintaining it as part of their cultural heritage which was formed in the land of the country’s ancient cultural hub.
In the old days, on a moonlit night during the Mid-Autumn festival, youngsters from Bui Xa Village used to gather at the hamlet entrance to join in the singing competition, which would last throughout the night with the enthusiastic support of the villagers.
According to Pham Cong Ngat, an elder of the Bui Xa Trong quan Singing Club, the folk art was first performed in the 13th century during the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400), but mostly flourished in the years prior to the August Revolution in 1945.
Local records said that Bui Xa artists had become so famous that King Trung Quang in the Tran Dynasty invited them to visit the royal capital to perform for his enjoyment.
In 1993, the Bui Xa Trong quan Singing Club was established, first with only five members, then up to the current 28 members. The local artists perform not only during the Mid-Autumn festival and other holidays, but also in artistic performance competitions, and they have won numerous prizes, including First Prize at the Bac Ninh Province Elderly Singing Contest in 2003 and Second Prize at the Thuan Thanh District Artistic Performance Contest in 2005 and 2007.
Unlike Trong quan singing in other localities, Bui Xa Trong quan singing is simple, but has a quick rhythm and many pauses between verses. It has few repetitions and the verses are in the six-eight word form, but when being sung they change into the ten-nine word version.
The sole musical instrument that accompanies the singers is a drum, which controls the rhythm. There is a horizontal wood plate with two poles at each end that are connected to each other by a steel wire. A drum is placed in the middle of the wire – the drum’s hollow surface is placed on the wooden plate while the bottom surface is a bit closer to the wire. When the drummer beats the steel wire, it will pluck the drum’s end and produce sounds with more echo and repeat against the singer’s words. vietnam tourist
To date, there are more than 100 Trong quan songs on different topics which are performed by members of the Bui Xa Club, including those praising the bumper harvest, festivals, a wedding party, the native land and people. When singing the folk songs, the artists can improvise the repartees depending on their mood.