Seminar seeks to preserve Bai Choi singing
Update: Sep 30, 2014
Musicians, researchers, managers and performers of Bai Choi – a folk singing popular in Central Viet Nam, have worked together on means and ways to preserve and enrich the values of the genre.

A seminar on the topic was co-hosted by the Viet Nam National Academic of Music and the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Binh Dinh province - the cradle of Bai Choi, on September 27.

Participants discussed thoroughly the history and current status of Bai Choi singing which was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage in late August, 2014 and is seeking the UNESCO’s recognition as an intangible cultural heritage in 2016.

The event was a move to facilitate the making of a national dossier in search for the recognition, with studies to be launched across 11 provinces and cities in the central region, ranging from Quang Binh to Binh Thuan, the organizers said.

The Viet Nam National Academy of Music and the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Binh Dinh have been tasked with the preparation of the application dossier, which is to be submitted prior to March 31, 2015.

Unique to the coastal central region, bai choi is often seen at local spring festivals and resembles a game, using playing cards and village huts.

The stage for bai choi performances encompasses nine cottages, each containing five or six ‘players’. One of the cottages, the central house, contains a troupe of musicians and instruments. A deck of playing cards is split in half, with one stack distributed amongst the players, and the other placed in the central house. The cards are stuck onto bamboo poles and erected outside the cottages.

The game singer delivers a flag to each cottage, all the while singing bai choi, and then draws a card from the central house. Whoever holds the card closest in value to the game singer’s card wins.

The bai choi songs are about festivals, daily life and work, and are accompanied by musical instruments.

The game and songs were developed by Mandarin Dao Duy Tu (1572-1634) to help locals protect their crops, according to Hoang Chuong, Director of the Centre for Preservation and Promotion of National Culture.

Viet Nam is currently home to eight UNESCO intangible heritages, namely Hue's royal court music, the space of Gong culture in the Central Highlands, Quan ho (love duet) singing, the Giong festival, Ca Tru ceremonial singing, Xoan singing, Worshipping the Hung Kings, and Don ca tai tu (amateur singing).