Bac Ninh Folk Songs

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Bac Ninh folk songs are the folk music of the people in Red River Delta in Vietnam, concentrates mainly in Kinh Bac (Bac Ninh and Bac Giang). The music performance is the combination of music, lyrics, costumes and festivals. It indicates the repartee or duet of the male (lien anh) and female artists (lien chi).

Quan ho folk music also has the most diverse melodies in Vietnamese folk art and is orally inherited from generation to generation. Singing Quan Ho requires a group called “bon”, normally a group of man and a group of women.

Therefore, each Quan Ho village usually is consisted of some groups of male and female artists. Each group includes 4-6 people and is named responsively as Big Sister, Second Sister, Third Sister, Big Brother, Second Brother, etc. During the folk music performance, the sisters and brothers do not say their real names but call each other with the designated name in group.

Quan Ho is the alternating responsive singing between the group of males and another group of female. Each group should have a lead vocalist and the supporting vocalists yet each of the group should match in harmony to create the same timbre. Quan Ho has 213 tunes with over 400 songs. The lyrics of a song have 2 parts: the core lyrics and the supporting lyrics. The principle ones were derived from old poems and folk verses. The secondary lyrics include all of the added words to the main lyrics, such as I hi, a ha, u hu, etc.

Quan Ho Bac Ninh includes not only the singing performance but also costumes and the typical items. Lien chi should wear Ao Tu Than, Ao Yem, Mo Qua Scarf, Belt, Guoc and Quai Thao corn while Lien Anh wears Khan Xep (Rolling Scarf), Umbrella, Ao Nam Than and Guoc. During the performance, the female singers sometimes bring the tray of betel and areca nuts to invite the male singers or the audience to enjoy.

The betel should be formed into phoenix-wing shape and put in a painted trap. The traditional meal of the Kinh Bac in general and Bac Ninh folk singers in particular is usually prepared with chicken, Gio Lua (Vietnamese Sausage) and pork (lean meat only) as the main course.

In Sep 1009 in Abu Dhabi (UEA), UNESCO recognized Bac Ninh folk songs as the intangible cultural heritage of humanity for its cultural values, values of preserving social customs, art of performance and manners of social communication, lyrics and costumes.

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