|Woman teacher - zither artist Dang Thi Quynh Nga
Aside from being Head of the Traditional Music Group, Thua Thien Hue Culture and Arts Intermediate School, she also joins in a great many programs and activities to educate and preserve traditional artistic values. What is your driving force to pursue this passion?
Everything goes naturally. I studied and chose to be a music teacher. When I became a teacher, things like teaching - performing - collecting documents, compiling... were inevitable things to do. These things resonate and interact with each other so that I can fully finalize teaching and promote my profession. Of course, the driving force must be accompanied by passion and responsibility. The implementation method requires flexibility, creativity, and perseverance.
As she confided, she was lucky to be taught through "craft transfer, skill transfer, and word of mouth" by veteran artisans in Hue traditional music. Could you please share more about this luck?
I studied professionally at elementary school, intermediate school, and university and then did an MA. The greatest blessing in this process was to be directly taught by the artisans. The quintessence of traditional music lies in its "quality" - the quality of the song, melody, music genre, and music player. Only through studying directly with veteran artisans can I have that quality.
My luck was to be trained by famous names of traditional art right in Hue and across the country such as Meritorious Artisan Tran Kich, Artisan Tran Ke, Meritorious Artisan Tran Thao, Meritorious Artist Thanh Tam, artisan Le Hoa, Meritorious Teacher Nguyen Van Doi… Out of passion and love of learning, I sang and played music with most of the veteran artisans in Hue.
In traditional music, performance time is also practice time no less valuable than class time. I still remember the concerts that lasted through the noon and evening, remember every spontaneous note, every touch of the artisan, every voice, and the spirit of the performance. All of this gave me a lot of knowledge about Hue's traditional music not recorded in books, forming a great love for Hue's traditional music.
It must also be mentioned that I studied with Prof. Tran Van Khe, Prof. To Ngoc Thanh, Prof. Nguyen Thuyet Phong, and other professors from Asian countries. It was those predecessors who laid the foundation for me in thinking and a broader perspective on preserving and promoting traditional artistic values.
As a great lover of traditional arts, is there anything that concerns you upon looking at the younger generation in the story of preserving and promoting the value of the traditional artistic heritage of the ancestors?
I suppose that young people today have a lot of things to access, have many opportunities, and seem to be under greater pressure than young people in the past. Once there are many things accessible, some people miss out on traditional music or know traditional music but come under pressure from the current pace of life, so they temporarily put traditional music aside.
Talking about young people with traditional arts, we must divide them into two groups: those who study professionally and then pursue the profession, and those who are non-professional. I wish that all Vietnamese people have a minimum knowledge of traditional arts. They can play and sing basically, or at least know how to name and distinguish music genres. They must know for sure that those are from Vietnam and not from another country.
I would also like to convey to today's young generation that you do not have to choose traditional art as a career, but that you need to know the artistic values of your ancestors. There you will more or less see the good and the beautiful.
This explains why I am willing to give free performances to serve the community. Just with one more person calling the correct name of the instrument, name of the melody, name of the art form, or just with someone stopping by the stage to view the performance, the traditional art will be spread.
If there was a comparison between the previous generation - your generation - and the younger generation in the process of preserving the value of artistic heritage, what would you think of?
Honestly, there are many ways of thinking. Music is substantially the voice of human thoughts and emotions. Hue traditional music also reflects culture, history, and place names. Where music is born at any time is a reflection of that. The veteran artisans are the original complete essence of traditional music. Our generation is the first copy closest to its original form, but there have been transformations.
The next young generation is very talented and brave, has very clear views, has wide access to the world, and is greatly influenced by their surroundings. The 2nd - generation copies onwards inevitably have other transformations. However, with the target of preserving heritage values, the bridge generation like us must be persistent, flexible, and creative to convey the original to them and minimize transformations.
Nowadays, the taste for enjoying music has undergone a drastic change. In your opinion, what do traditional arts in general and Hue folk singing in particular need to do to both retain their soul and adapt to the breath of the times?
As far as I know, the methods producing positive results have been developed such as writing new suitable lyrics, building a suitable performance environment, and training the audience so that the audience will become the owner of implementation. In addition, there should be new compositions based on ancient materials.
But it is vital to offer more opportunities for traditional arts to reach young people. Even professionals must be the first pioneers, stepping out of the box to reach the masses.
For myself, I am willing to join in activities relevant to traditional arts. Right at home, my husband and two children can now play traditional musical instruments and sing Hue folk songs.
As a trainer, what do you think are the vital issues today in preserving and promoting traditional artistic values, especially in Hue land?
For Hue traditional arts (Royal Refined Music and Hue Folk Singing), from my perspective, the enormous difficulty lies in the job opportunities after study. The next difficulty is the discreet personality of Hue people upon art performance.
Preserving the "living" heritage within each person is the best way to preserve and promote it. There should be better policies, and a team of heritage inheritance must be maintained in both professional units and traditional families.
Besides, it is needed to organize more activities relevant to heritage music for the general public to enjoy. Special attention should also be given to young people's access to and practice of heritage. Coordination with the units to incorporate heritage activities into local education classes at secondary schools is definitely an effective way. I believe so!