Rise of ‘Tai Tu’ traditional music

Having come to life about two centuries ago and becoming much loved by southerners of Vietnam, ‘Don Ca Tai Tu’ or Tai Tu music is deeply rooted in the culture and spirit of local people and is considered one of the significant traditional music forms of the country.

A foreign visitor enjoys playing the 'dan bau', one of the musical instrumetals in Tai Tu music of southerners. (Photo: SGGP)

Vietnam has filed a dossier recently on ‘Don Ca Tai Tu’ and sent it to UNESCO for recognition as an intangible cultural heritage. According to Associate Professor Dr Le Van Toan, director of Vietnam National Academy of Music, while filing the dossier, they decided to keep the word ‘Don’ --a southern dialect word--instead of using the standard Vietnamese word ‘Dan’, to ensure the distinct dialect of southerners. Tai Tu music has strong vitality and has grown as society has developed over time. UNESCO’s recognition will help to uphold and improve this form of art for future generations.

Professor Doctor Tran Van Khe said that since the 1960s, Tai Tu music had been introduced to UNESCO. In 1962, he had asked musician Nguyen Huu Ba to record a version of Tai Tu music to present to UNESCO. In 1963, UNESCO invited him and artist Bach Hue to record an album of Tai Tu music titled ‘Vietnamese traditions of the South’ which was released under UNESCO trademark. In 1972, a similar record was made with Professor Doctor Tran Van Khe and music teacher Nguyen Vinh Bao.

Music teacher Nguyen Vinh Bao is playing the 'dan tranh'. (Photo: SGGP)

In 1972, Ocora Radio France invited Khe and Bao and Dan Tranh artist Hai Phuong in 1994 to record two albums of Tai Tu music. Both albums were listed bestselling music albums and won the French Critics Award on year of release.

In 1970, the University of Illinois asked music teacher Nguyen Vinh Bao to teach folk-music of Vietnam with Professor Doctor Tran Van Khe to students. This did not include several cultural exchange programs between artists of Tai Tu music clubs of Vietnam and artists from foreign countries, and thousands of classes on Tai Tu music taught by Professor Doctor Tran Van Khe across the world.

With both academic and common characters, Tai Tu music is no longer sung around bamboo hedges and rice fields in the countryside, but now has spread its wings to bigger cities and even foreign countries with more and more people becoming interested in it.

don ca tai tu music, southern vietnam