The UNESCO committee requires that the participants be local people. However, as no northern mountainous art forms have been recognised by UNESCO, the filing process has faced many challenges, according to Rector of the National Academy of Music Nguyen Binh Dinh.
One of the advantages of the filing process is that several local thay then (then master), religious rituals related to then singing are still practiced; artifacts and documents in Tay-Han language are still preserved in families with then singing tradition, said Dinh.
Besides, translating then songs from Tay ethnic language to Viet language also poses a difficulty, because even those who can speak Tay language can hardly translate these songs. Many lyrics use old Tay language while translation also requires certain level of understanding and knowledge of religion, ritual and ethnicity, said Dinh.
Then singing is a form of art combining literature, music and dancing that has long been a religious and cultural practice of Tay, Nung, Thai ethnic groups in the northern mountainous area of Vietnam.
The form of singing is practiced in five northern provinces of Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Lang Son, Tuyen Quang and Ha Giang. The Tay, Nung and Thai ethnic groups sing then in special occasions, such as village festival days.
It is said to have first appeared in the late 15th century Mac Dynasty. Legend has it that, in Mac Dynasty, there were two kings named De Phung and De Dang who had special love for music and singing. The two kings invented a handmade gourd lute called dan tinh or tinh tau and established two singing troupes to serve royal court. Ordinary people found it interesting and started learning it. Ever since, this form of singing has been preserved till today.