Endangered Ca tru singing becomes Vietnam's newest World Heritage

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UNESCO has recognized northern Vietnam's near-extinct traditional ca tru folk singing as a piece of intangible world heritage, a cultural official said after the UN group made the decision Thursday.

Four years after its initial application, the chamber music featuring female vocalists has been inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's  List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, said Le Thi Minh Ly, an official from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The inaugural list, a kind of addendum to UNESCO's existing Intangible Cultural Heritage list, was launched with 11 other submissions from seven different countries at the group's recent Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage meeting, which wrapped up Friday in the United Arab Emirates.

On its website, UNESCO said that "the viability of these cultural elements is endangered, despite the efforts of the communities or groups concerned."

Following the recognition, states concerned would implement "specific safeguarding plans, as indicated in their nomination files," said the posting, which added that "Intangible cultural elements in need of urgent safeguarding will be eligible for financial assistance from the [UNESCO] Fund established to this end."

Dating back to the Ly Dynasty (1010- 1225), Ca tru is a complex form of sung poetry using lyrics written in traditional Vietnamese poetic forms.

It was first performed in sacred ceremonies and rituals and then adopted as popular entertainment in the 20th century.

However, wars and disinterest pushed Ca tru to the brink of extinction 1950-1980, according to UNESCO.

Although the artists have made great efforts to transmit the old repertoire to younger generations, ca tru is still under threat of being lost due to the diminishing number and age of practitioners," a UNESCO statement said.

UNESCO has previously recognized 76 out of 111 submissions from 34 countries as Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, including Vietnam's Quan Ho Bac Ninh (folk singing from the northern province of Bac Ninh).

Last year Vietnam's Central Highlands Gong Culture and Nha Nhac Hue (royal court music from Hue) were inscribed on the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

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