For the San Diu ethnic group that lives in the northern province of Vinh Phuc, singing is a daily ritual.
The San Diu community sings these Soong Co folk songs on every occasion, including during arduous working hours, on the fields, around a fire and even after dinner, the elders from the local community said.
People may sing to greet one another, express passionate feelings, send best wishes to newly-weds, during birthday parties and new year.
Le Dai Nam, chairman of Soong Co Singing Club in Dao Tru Commune, said the commune had the highest population of San Diu people in the province, and so their culture was the most vivid there.
“There are 13 Soong Co singing clubs in the commune,” he said.
According to Ly Thi Nam, head of a club in Vinh Ninh Village, people of all ages call on one another to sing, whenever they can during leisure time after harvest.
“They may sing from morning until late in the afternoon and yet, do not feel tired at all,” she said. “Both members and non-members of the club gather in and outside the commune.”
Tran Quyen, a member of Minh Quang Commune’s singing club, is a frequent participant at the singing sessions.
“We often sing at the Vuc Chuong Market from night until early morning,” he said. “Every time I join in this activity, I feel younger and forget the daily hustle and bustle of my hectic life.”
In recent years, Dao Tru Commune has encouraged the elders in the community to teach their children the San Diu language and establish more Soong Co singing clubs, Nam said.
“Every Saturday and Sunday or on holidays, elders gather the young people of the commune to practise some melodies,” Nam said. “The elderly teach the youngsters; the better singers teach those who are not as gifted. That’s how folk songs have been passed down from generation to generation."
Since the Soong Co Singing Club of Vinh Ninh Village was established, the atmosphere in the village has become cheerful. Many people have joined the club’s singing activity, Nam said.
“In the 13 singing clubs, there are some 600 members,” said Lam Xuan Tien, chairman of Dao Tru Commune People’s Committee. “Many of the members have been recognised as artisans of the art.”
On an average, a club organises one singing session every month, excluding the exchanges with clubs in other localities.
“We have also organised singing contests for teenagers in the commune to encourage more youngsters to learn the local folk songs,” he said.
There are around 34,000 people from the San Diu ethnic group residing at the foot of the Tam Dao mountain range in the northern province of Vinh Phuc.
They have their own written and spoken language and traditional identity.
Soong Co singing has been handed down for hundreds of years from generation to generation in the San Diu community.
The art includes duet singing among young men and women. Singers have to learn by heart the lyrics of the songs. One may sing just a few lines of the song and goad the other teams to complete them or find appropriate lyrics from other songs as their response.
Soong Co songs cover subjects such as love, love for nature, loyalty, respect for parents, grandparents, and humanity.VNS