Xoan singing is heritage in need of preservation: UNESCO

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Vietnam's xoan singing is one of eight new elements inscribed on the List of Intangible Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguardingone, announced at a UNESCO meeting in Bali, Indonesia on Nov 24.

The UNESCO website describes the art, which originates from the northern province of Phu Tho, as follows:

"Xoan singing is practised in Phu Tho Province, Vietnam, in the first two months of the lunar year.

"Xoan guilds traditionally performed in sacred spaces such as temples, shrines and communal houses for the spring festivals. Xoan singing is accompanied by dancing and musical instruments such as clappers and a variety of drums.

"Knowledge, customs and techniques for singing, playing and dancing are traditionally transmitted orally by the guild leader. In recent years the singing has been taken up by clubs and other performing groups."

According to former deputy head of the Cultural Heritage Department Nguyen Thi Minh Ly, a member of Vietnam delegation to the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage meeting, the xoan dossier was the only submission among other 32 others that received a complete consensus from UNESCO.

According to the documents and historical materials collected since 2009 and submitted in the dossier, there are currently 118 xoan singers in Vietnam, of which 69 are 60 years old and above, and eight are knowledgeable enough to pass the art down to others.

According to Prof To Ngoc Thanh, president of Vietnam Association of Folk Cultural and Arts, it is difficult to restore and revive the art in its original form -- which includes singing, dancing, and ceremonies -- as for years at it has been performed on the stage only as song.

In addition to Vietnam, seven other items from Brazil, Indonesia, Iran, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia were also added into the List of Intangible Heritage in need of urgent safeguarding.

Brazil submitted Yaokwa, the Enawene Nawe people's ritual for the maintenance of social and cosmic order; Indonesia submitted the Saman dance; the Republic of Iran submitted Iranian Lenj boat culture and Iranian dramatic story-telling; Mali submitted the secret society of the Kôrêdugaw, a rite of wisdom; Mauritania submitted The Moorish Epic T'heydinn; Mongolia submitted Limbe performances, which use circular breathing.

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