A performance of Bai Choi singing at Tuy Loan communal house in Hao Phong commune, Hoa Vang district, Da Nang city.
The workshop was co-held by the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Vietnam National Academic of Music (VNAM) with the aim of studying the folk songs peculiar to Quang Nam towards the goal of applying for UNESCO recognition as part of the world intangible cultural heritage.
Addressing the workshop, VNAM Head Nguyen Binh Dinh highlighted Bai choi singing as a combination of poetry, music, singing, performance and improvisation.
The Vietnam National Academy of Music and 11 provinces and cities in the central region, ranging from Quang Binh to Binh Thuan, 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 singing 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.
Vietnam is currently home to eight cultural practices in the UNESCO intangible heritage list, 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).