UNESCO’s recognition of Bai choi singing as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity last December brought great pride and joy to people in the central coastal province of Phu Yen, one of Bai choi’s birthplaces. At Dong Hoa fishing village, one hears children singing Bai choi songs whenever they are.
Bài chòi singing is an art combining music, poetry, acting, painting and literature. Its practitioners include performers, card-making artists, and hut-making artists.
Life in Dong Hoa village is not easy. There is not much here besides harsh weather. Despite the hardship, local children find joy in practicing Bai choi singing with Nguyen Dinh Thoang, whose stage name is Binh Thang. Rain or shine, the children visit Binh Thang’s house almost everyday to learn Bai choi folk singing.
Binh Thang’s students rarely miss a class no matter how far they live.
"Every word of a Bai choi song has a meaning. After learning just two songs, I have learned a lot about life. I want to attend Bai choi singing classes as long as possible to inherit and then promote our traditional folk singing.", said 14-year-old Huynh Kieu Mai, who has been with the classes for 3 years.
Binh Thang has taught Bai choi singing to local children for more than a decade. Bai choi singing is not difficult to learn, but it’s not easy to get young people interested in this art form.
"My classes are arranged to accomodate my students’s chedules. Each class lasts 1 to 1.5 hours and, of course, is free. I just want to preserve our beautiful traditional folk singing.", said Binh Thang.
Some of Binh Thang’s students have attended his classes since they were little. They have learned the basic skills of Bai choi singing, how to control their breath, pronounce the words, and let the words come out slowly in the correct rhythm. Bai choi songs have gradually become an integral part of their life. Pham Xuan Mai and Nguyen Thanh Dat are two of Binh Thang’s best students.
"I was very interested in modern music before I learned of Bai choi songs. These songs make me love my hometown more and feel proud to be born here. I think I’m very lucky to have learned of this folk singing.", said Mai.
Meanwhile, Dat told VOV: "I will try to become a professional singer of Bai choi. I feel very relaxed and at peace whenever I sing."