Ethnic group keeps folk songs alive
Update: Sep 25, 2015
Nearly 100 kilometres from northern Bac Giang city is Mau village, a familiar destination for tourists and researchers who want to explore the unique culture of the Dao ethnic people. 

Ban Thi Duyen, a local from Mau village in Tuan Mau commune, Son Dong district, is one of the few people who can remember the Dao ethnic group’s folk songs. 

“Pao Dung” or “Pa Dung” folk singing is born from labour, daily life and affection between people, Duyen said. 

It is performed in traditional festivals such as “cap sac” (coming-of-age), wedding party, funeral, and worshipping events, she added. 

The melodies also reflect a love for life, labour and the unique culture of the Dao ethnic community. 

The art form offers special features depending on the performance style. According to the daily-singing style (for lullabies, gathering and farewell songs), artisans could improvise on the spot to create countless different songs. 

However, for ritual-singing, artisans must remember the exact lyrics to perform at ceremonial events. The music and lyrics must have specific regulations and standards due to Dao ethnic spiritual beliefs. 

The difference between the two singing styles is also reflected through the musical instruments; the music in ritual-singing is exciting, while that of daily-singing is soft and sweet. 

However, social development threatens the existence of Dao ethnic folk songs. Only a handful of people in Mau village can sing the songs which are no longer popular among the youth. 

Tuan Son village, which is over 10 kilometres from Mau village in Tuan Dao commune, Son Dong district, has 60 Dao ethnic households. 

Locals said hardships prevent them from keeping the folk songs alive. 

La Trieu Van, Head of the district’s culture and information centre, added that preservation is complicated as most Dao people pass the folk songs on through word of mouth. Additionally, the number of people hearing and understanding the songs can be counted on one hand, he said. 

To preserve this traditional art, it is necessary to instil love and appreciation among young people and include it in public art programmes, he suggested.