Update: 16:15 | 03/04/2021
(BGO) - Bac Giang is an ancient land which is home to quan ho (love duets) singing - an elegant hobby that has always been attractive and pervasive in the hearts of the people of the Kinh Bac region, especially those living on the two banks of Cau River, also known as "the river of quan ho". Notably, the practice of quan ho singing also preserves many traditional cultural beauties, including the friend-making custom.
Making friends has become the most important custom for all “lien anh” (male vocalists) and “lien chi” (female vocalists), and all quan ho playing groups, also known as quan ho players. Traditionally, only quan ho singers who are friends played with each other. If they did not make friends but sang together, it was just called "hat gheo" (love exchange singing). Therefore, the mandatory requirement for each quan ho playing group was to befriend at least one other group. It has become a common practice in culture.
Tam Tang village (Viet Yen) befriends Do Han, Chap and Diem villages (Bac Ninh). Photo: A quan ho singing activity at Tam Tang village
In terms of origin and history, the friendship between the quan ho villages or between the quan ho players has existed for a long time. It originated from the custom of “ket cha” (setting up twinning ties) between the villages. “Ket cha” is the establishment of twinning ties between the two villages which consider each other as brothers and help each other in production. This custom is extremely sustainable, because in addition to the social function, it also has the function of performing the rituals. Thus, this is a long-standing custom that has been merged into quan ho.
Statistics of the provincial cultural sector show that in some quan ho villages in the Kinh Bac region still preserve the custom of making friends and setting up twinning ties between quan ho villages such as Tho Ha village (Bac Giang) befriending Diem village (Bac Ninh); Trung Dong village (Bac Giang) making friends with the villages of Thuong Dong, Ha Dong (Bac Ninh); Noi Ninh village (Bac Giang) with Han and Diem villages (Bac Ninh); Mai Vu village with Chap But village (Bac Ninh) ... So this is a popular custom that creates a typical culture in the Kinh Bac region.
Quan ho singing is a form of singing love duets by male and female vocalists. Therefore, in the friend-making custom, a group of male singers in one village can befriend one or more groups of female quan ho singers in another village and vice versa. A quan ho village usually has many quan ho playing groups. These groups make friends with each other and their relationship is very close. They regularly sing together, share with and help each other, both spiritually and materially.
Present at the quan ho singing exchange between Tho Ha and Diem villages in Tho Ha village, we met artisan Nguyen Phu Hiep, who has mastered the styles as well as the customs of the quan ho players. He said that Diem and Tho Ha quan ho villages have been friends for a long time. Seeing they matched in the quan ho playing style, they made friends.
Therefore, the friendship between the two villages is extremely cohesive. The host quan ho group (male singers from Tho Ha village) often go to Cau River wharf to welcome their guests from Diem village and then take them to a hall to prepare offerings for worship at the communal house. After that, the two sides spread a mat to sing a match of quan ho at the pagoda and then go home to continue singing until the end of the festival.
Over time, the quan ho groups in the villages have mostly been gathered to form clubs. They practice quan ho singing together and teach each other the styles of singing, playing and performing love duets. Club members have passed down the traditional art to next generations, so that everyone knows all the styles and rules of singing love duets in order to stay ready to join quan ho singing exchanges.
Therefore, the friend-making custom has been still maintained and developed in some villages but faded in some others. Therefore, the preservation of the custom in quan ho singing activities is very necessary and meaningful in people's lives, contributing to tightening the relationship of the villages and creating a faithful friendship between them.
Phung Thi Mai Anh