Folklorists say San Chi folk singing is a very old art form. It’s a duet form similar to the Vi or Quan ho singing of the Kinh, and the Sli or the Luon singing of the Tay and Nung.
Tran Van Thuy, a famous San Chi singer from Kien Lao commune, Luc Ngan district, Bac Giang province, said, “San Chi folk songs are about dating, weddings, love, and longevity. There are songs for day and night singing sessions. There are songs for wedding ceremonies, birthdays, and to congratulate someone on their longevity.”
Researchers say the San Chi have 300 to 500 songs for day singing, 700 to 1,000 songs for night singing, and 100 songs for wedding ceremonies. All lyrics are written in Chinese characters.
All San Chi love to sing to express their emotions and aspirations. The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism added San Chi folk singing to the list of national intangible cultural heritages in 2012.
Ly Hong Vien, Head of Ho hamlet’s Fatherland Front in Kien Lao province, noted, “San Chi folk singing has been recognized as a national intangible heritage. It has been well preserved in our community. The Fatherland Front has encouraged people to organize clubs to teach folk songs to people of all ages.”
Tran Van Thuy said he has performed San Chi folk songs in several localities since 1982. He also teaches young San Chi people to sing their folk songs.
Thuy shared, “I’ve traveled to many places and listened to people of other groups singing their songs beautifully. I opened singing classes in Ho hamlet to preserve our culture. I’m old now and I want to teach San Chi songs to young people who will sing at exchanges with other groups."
"I taught 8 children at my house last year. I’ll open a summer class this year,” he added.
Mr Thuy said learning San Chi songs is not easy because they are written in an older language. The teacher has to explain the meaning of the lyrics.
Fewer young San Chi people are learning their group’s folk songs because they are not yet fully aware of the need to preserve their culture. But Thuy and many other San Chi people continue to safeguard the folk songs as a pillar of their culture.