Xoan singing of Phú Thọ is one of the local traditional arts with various tunes which are performed by combined traditional folk forms such as sing, dance, music, and stage. Preserving and promoting Xoan singing will diversify the local traditional folk resources, and then in the long term, we can utilize, advertise and bring this performance to festivals. We use the traditional Xoan in order to develop a new model of Xoan singing – Old serves modern, old develops into new, and it does not fall into the old restoration category.
Xoan singing of Phú Thọ is believed to be attached with the worship of Hung King. Before the August Revolution, Xoan existed without the attention from the feudalism and French colonists for its preservation and development. After the Revolution, especially since 1954, Xoan folk of Phú Thọ have been paid attention from many local scholars. In 1958, the study collection of “Xoan singing” (folk songs of Phú Thọ) authored by Tú Ngọc musician was published. In 1962, the Music Publishing House published “Xoan singing of Phú Thọ” album to introduce old Xoan songs and modified Xoan songs to serve the people. In 1976, in “The Vietnamese proverbs and folk song” book, Vũ Ngọc Phan considered Xoan singing of Phú Thọ is one of the important factors in the diversified folk songs of the country. “The Vietnamese literature collections” published by the Culture Publishing House …also mentioned Xoan of Phú Thọ as a traditional culture resource which needs to be promoted and preserved in the Fatherland. In 1979, the “Xoan singing of Vĩnh Phú” book written by two folk song scholars - Nguyễn Khắc Xương and Dương Huy Thiện shows to the readers a comprehensive aspect on Xoan singing through a scientific and systematic synthetic, evaluation, analyzing, and introduction. In 1999, Nguyễn Anh Tuấn carried out a research on Xoan festival of Phú Thọ to restore the Xoan singing with the participation of artists and people from four old Xoan villages: Thét, Kim Đới, Phù Đức and An Thái.
In reality, Xoan singing of Phú Thọ has became an interesting topic for many local and out-of-the province organizations and individuals. A part from traditional folk song researchers, many musicians spent endless efforts to study, creative modify, and improve Xoan tunes for better adoption with the new era, such as Phạm Khư¬ơng, Hùng Khanh, Đào Đăng Hoàn, and Cao Khắc Thùy… composed songs that received the support from the public. Many operas and dancing performance originated from Xoan have been showed and received golden medals in local, regional, and country’s art performance.
At present, the collection and study Xoan folk song of Phú Thọ has faced some difficulties. First, the genuine artists are getting older while the younger generations are paying less attention to and have little knowledge on this kind of traditional folk song. The work of Xoan folk song preservation has became an urgent issue. The Department of Culture, Tourism, and Sports of Phú Thọ built Xoan club building at Kim Đức commune (Phù Ninh), Phượng Lâu and other locations in the province where original Xoan groups exist to preserve, explore, and develop this art. Xoan singing are only held at the temple’s gate during annual festivals but developed in various people in the society. The Club operates in 3 groups: youth group, 20-50 year old group, and over 50 year old group. This is an effective way to preserve and develop Xoan singing which needs to be multiplied in the whole province. Secondly, within the four original Xoan groups in Kim Đức and Ph¬ượng Lâu commune (Việt Trì), there are differentiate in the tunes, lyrics, and dancing movement. This issue can turn Xoan singing of Xoan Phú Thọ to be more diversify but also can create a problem of ununification between Xoan groups. This requires the Xoan researchers must have a comprehensive, flexible, and considerate approach. Thirdly, the written documents are missing and information is mainly based on the memory of artists, therefore, there is discrepancy.
Xoan singing of Phú Thọ has been selected by intangible art experts to be submitted to the council for national culture heritage for profiling the world culture heritage. This is also a strategic goal of Phú Thọ province on cultural development in the period of 2008- 2020. Xoan singing preservation is to preserve and promote the cultural value of Hùng Kings on the fartherland of Vietnamese people.
We would like to propose several following solutions:
Xoan singing cultural heritage of Phú Thọ needs to be maintained and developed in two communes where 4 Xoan groups located with the following contents:
* Xoan singing heritage preservation.
- State should allocate budget for restoration remaining temple’s gate that have traditional Xoan singing; restore festival held at village temple’s gate in order to create cultural space for Xoan singing; and provide equipments and funding to organize training class for oan performance.
- To establish the list and profiles, provide encouragement methods for talented artists related to cultural intangible heritage – Xoan singing of Phú Thọ. To encourage the work of maintaining, teaching, and tranferring skills for the next generation to continue promoting Xoan singing heritage.
- To build a training and capacity building plan on intangible cultural heritage for cultural staff at provincial, district, and commune level by different creative, flexible, and effective approaches.
- To strengthen the collaboration with concerned agencies in the country, such as the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Sports, The Cultural Heritage Agency, The Institute of Cultural Studies … to receive and take advantage of researches, practical experiences, and technological and financial support for preservation work of intangible cultural heritage of Phú Thọ in general, and Xoan singing in particular.
* Bringing into play the value of Xoan singing heritage.
- To disseminate and transfer the studied intangible cultural heritages to the community so that it can be harmonized with and returned to its ultimate nature. Also, it can be served as local tourism development factor.
- To strengthen the publicity on mass media of the value of Xoan singing cultural heritage to raise awereness within community on its intangible cultural heritage, especially for young generation – the future masters of the country.
- To build the storage and preservation for intangible cultural heritage at the provincial Museum with modern equipments to introduce to visitors of its values, including Xoan singing.
- To publish all document collected during researches through visual and audio products, such as tapes, CD, VCD, study curriculumns, and CD – ROM storage.
In general, folk arts of Phú Thọ are an extremely diversify with singing and dancing heritages which shows the national identities of the fatherland. Among them, Xoan singing - local folk tune, is a famous and special traditional cultural heritage in the country. Xoan singing known as the ritual activity for worshiping Hùng Kings; with temple’s gates, and spring festivals on the fatherland. By preserving and promoting the value of Xoan singing cultural heritage, turning it to be popular in the community, we are actively contributing to the process of building an advanced, strong identity of Vietnamese culture.
Phạm Bá Khiêm
Deputy Director of the Culture, Tourism, and Sports Department