Vietnam makes a UNESCO push for Dan Bau
Vietnamese agencies, including the National Institute of Music, Folk Arts Association of Vietnam and Vietnam Musicians’ Association, are aiming to ally with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports to propose to UNESCO to recognise Dan Bau as a world heritage.
The campaign was announced by Chairman of the Folk Arts Association of Vietnam To Ngoc Thanh in a workshop on dan bau and its role in Vietnam culture held by National Institute of Music on October 21.
The workshop drew researchers, artists and scholars, including artist Thanh Tam, Nguyen Tien, who have significantly contributed to promote dan bau, Head of the National Institute of Music, Nguyen Binh Dinh, artist Bui Le Chi, Hoang Anh Tu and Nguyen Thuy Loan.
The workshop focused on the history, development the role of dan bau in Vietnamese culture, and it discussed the path to preserving the instrument.
“If we were to choose an instrument to represent Vietnam’s traditional music, to introduce and promote Vietnam and its people, dan bau would definitely be the one,” said Binh Dinh.
“ Dan bau is the most unique instrument which represents Vietnamese people’s language and soul,” said artist Nguyen Tien.
Though it is hard to clarify the exact time when dan bau was created, most scholars agree that it is an indigenous instrument of Vietnam and was used before 19th century, said Head of the National Institute of Music, Nguyen Binh Dinh.
Nguyen dynasty historians noted in Dai Nam Thuc Luc, (The true record of Vietnam history) that dan bau was born in the 18th century and Ton That Duc, a scholar who was keen on learning and excellent at literature and music created this instrument, said Dang Hoanh Loan.
In Vietnam, there also exist many legends associated with the birth of dan bau . According to these legends, dan bau were often given to warmhearted yet overworked people by Buddha so that they could make ends meet from playing this instrument. These people then spread the popularity through teaching and performance, artist Thanh Tam said.
“This instrument was very close to life of ordinary people. It initially accompanied buskers in singing to make ends meet in the markets of rural villages and urban areas,” said Thanh Tam.
Dan bau has experienced ups and downs of history--as well as reforms over different periods--but it has become one of the most unique instruments in Vietnam.
“Among traditional instruments of Vietnam, dan bau is the one that attracts the most interest from composers and researchers. This can be proved by the dominant number of works composed inclusively for dan bau , the number and the scope of studies on dan bau ,” said Dinh.
In addition, dan bau performance is among the must-haves for traditional art events for international audiences and diplomats as well as big events held domestically, said Dinh.
In wars against France and America, dan bau and sao truc (bamboo flute) performance were also the favourites for soldiers.
“From 1970s to early 1990s, dan bau was performed in many countries in Europe, Africa and Americas. The performing artists often said the international audience understood more about Vietnam and its people thanks to dan bau . It has been considered as a representative and symbol of Vietnam culture,” said Dinh.
Dan bau played an important place in Vietnam music in 1990s as there was an increasing number of people pursuing this instrument and Vietnamese artists granted awards like artists Nguyen Tien, Thanh Tam, Hoang Anh Tu, Bui Le Chi, Hoang Xuan Binh and Phan Kim Thanh, said Thanh Tam.
Many well-known composers also composed beautiful masterpieces for dan bau , including composer Huy Thuc, Xuan Khai, Duc Nhuan and Ngo Quoc Tinh, said Thanh Tam.
Vietnam needs to carry out some urgent solutions to protect and promote the values of cultural heritages, including dan bau , said Dinh.
Relevant agencies need to co-ordinate a proposal for UNESCO recognition for dan bau to assert cultural sovereignty for this instrument, said To Ngoc Thanh. Bui Le Chi recommended that training talents in arts field must start from an early age. In addition, initiatives like granting awards or financial support to encourage artists and teachers to engage more in composing work for dan bau are essential.