Culture Culture

21/03/2019 - 07:56

Inspiring students with traditional instruments

For many years, Ms. Dang Thi Quynh Nga, Head of the National Music Division, School of Culture and Arts, has offered free classes of đàn tranh (‘guzheng’ - a long zither) to inspire many people with this traditional instrument.

With the love of đàn tranh, Quynh Nga wants to inspire young students with this traditional musical instrument.

Love of the sound of đàn tranh

The clear sound of the ‘lý Ngựa ô’, ‘lý Cây bông’, as well as the songs of the fresh spring were heard in the quiet space of Ca Hue Chamber club at Hue Culture Museum. The gentle, delicate sound immerses both Ms. Quynh Nga and student Minh Thu into the music, with their flexible and skillful hands gliding on the strings. That is the atmosphere of đàn tranh class at the Ca Hue Chamber club taught by Ms. Dang Thi Quynh Nga.

Unlike many other classes in which all students are taught together, Ms. Nga teaches each student separately. She carefully fixes students’ sitting position, and instructs them to play each key. In addition to performing techniques and the application to each song, she also equips students with knowledge of Vietnamese national music so that her students can understand traditional music and folk songs of different regions.

Ms. Nga’s class members are mostly school students, with the youngest ones being the first-grade students, and the older ones being working people who have strong love of the đàn tranh. Le Minh Thu (a fifth-grade student, at Tran Quoc Toan Primary School) has learned the đàn tranh for nearly one year. Thu used to learn the electronic organ, but then she switched to đàn tranh, as she loves this kind of musical instrument.

Thu said: “I really love the đàn tranh. I can learn to play it all day without boredom.. It was difficult at first, but I find it easy after practicing. Now, I can play skillfully the songs, such as ‘Lý Tình tang’, ‘Lý Cây đa’, ‘Lý Ngựa ô’, etc. It was the funniest moment when I performed on the stage of Ca Hue Chamber. I was both nervous and touched”.

Thanks to the love of this traditional musical instrument, Ms. Thuy and her daughter Dieu Khanh from Phu Bai (Huong Thuy) used to go Hue to learn the đàn tranh twice a week. After a hard time practicing the musical instrument, Ms. Thuy has managed to open a free đàn tranh class for orphans at Duc Son Pagoda.

Ms. Thuy shared: “I have had a special interest in the đàn tranh since I was an undergraduate student. The strength of the elegant and delicate đàn tranh is that it expresses the artists’ inner feeling and evokes the deepest feelings of the audience. Besides, the đàn tranh has a pretty and charming shape, which is suitable for female. I like it, so I also guided my daughter to learn it when she was in the second grade.”

Requiting gratitude

It has been two years since Ms. Quynh Nga opened her free đàn tranh class at Ca Hue Chamber club. This class, in fact, had been operated regularly at her house for ten years before. Talking about the reasons why she opened the free class for over ten years, Ms. Nga simply said: “I have been attached to the đàn tranh since I was in the second grade. Until my adulthood, I had been taught by many generations without paying any fees. It is not a big deal, and what I have done now is how I pay back what I received, just like my teachers taught me in the past. If I spend the time operating the class to perform in shows, I can make money; but for me, this is the time to live in the right way for my career so I don't weigh the pros and cons on it.”

It is easy to say but to teach for free for over ten years, like a hard-working bee “pouring honey” for life, is impossible without passion, enthusiasm and great love for the traditional music of the nation. A rewarding return for Ms. Nga is that she has chosen "handed-down" talents from her classes. Among generations of her students, some people learning the đàn tranh from the early age are earning their living with the đàn tranh. On the first days at the class, they called Ms. Nga “teacher”, and when they grow up, they call her “mother”.

“I can play the đàn tranh, and I love that many people can do it. Therefore, I open the class to inspire the students. Then, my students themselves will do the same to others”, Ms. Quynh Nga shared.

Ms. Nga teaches anyone who wants to learn the đàn tranh, both for professional and non-professional purposes. Many parents sent their children to the class so that they could acquire the traditional value of Vietnamese people. The đàn tranh class has brought to Ms. Quynh Nga both joy and sadness. In addition to the joy of meeting interesting students, who love the đàn tranh, Ms. Nga has experienced many times the feeling of pity as many students only consider the class as a promenade of curiosity.

Since she taught at Hue Cultural Museum, many people have joined her class. As it is free, some people go to the class or just go off it as they want without a prior notice. For many times, she had to wait for the students, but they did not turn up. Therefore, for the past few months, she has decided to charge a small amount of tuition fee to make students more responsible and connected with the class. As the number of students is smaller, she also has the opportunity to choose people who are really passionate.

According to Ms. Quynh Nga, learning the đàn tranh is not too difficult. In order to become a good player, there is also passion in addition to talent. The talent makes players fly high on the đàn tranh while the passion helps learners get excited, and develop the skills gradually. With a combination of teaching methods of finger guidance, oral instructions and modern teaching methods, students can grasp the idea and learn faster. Ms. Nga not only teaches students to play old songs, but also combines both old ones to keep the core features of đàn tranh and new songs transformed for đàn tranh to make it more accessible to people.

Story and photo: Minh Hien