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Cheo Chai He in Bac Ninh falling into oblivion
Thu Huong
Tuesday,  Jun 20, 2017,22:58 (GMT+7)

Cheo Chai He in Bac Ninh falling into oblivion

Thu Huong

Nguyen Nang Dich, the only 65-year-old local man, is trying to preserve cheo Chai He - PHOTO: THU HUONG

The ancient region of Kinh Bac (now the northern provinces of Bac Ninh and Bac Giang) is home to not only quan ho singing (love duet) but also cheo (traditional opera) Chai He, a typical musical to express people’s filial love to their parents. Nguyen Nang Dich, the only 65-year-old local man, is making effort to preserve cheo Chai He he has treasured as the unique art form is falling into oblivion.

Originating in the mid-18th century in Lung Giang Village (now Lim Town, in Tien Du District of Bac Ninh Province), Chai He has a history of nearly 300 years. Currently, Dich is the only man who can sing and dance this genre of art and devote the rest of his life to its preservation.

Dich was born into a family with a tradition of cheo but he had not been taught the art by his parents. However, the special characteristics of Chai He aroused his curiosity and passion. At the age of eight, he began to pick up a few cheo songs on the yard of the temple where local residents always gathered to sing cheo songs and dance. Surprisingly, only a short time, he learned by heart hundreds of cheo songs and plays. 

Chai He is different from other forms of cheo that have been existing in the northern delta as it is only available in Lung Giang and Tam Son villages and shows children’s filial piety towards parents and grandparents. Therefore, all lyrics and melodies of cheo songs leave an emotional impact on listeners.

Stemming from the story called “ket cha” (make friends) between Lung Giang and Tam Son villages during the reign of King Le Hien Tong (1740-1786), cheo Chai He was initially called “Nhi thap tu hieu ca” (Twenty-four Filial Exemplars Songs) and then renamed Chai He.

For years, Dich has tried to collect Chai He songs and dances to preserve cultural values of the traditional art form. Besides, he is concerned about the disappearance of Chai He after his death. Thus, he intends to produce a video of his performances of the original Chai He songs and dances in an effort to pass them down to the next generation and preserve the traditional art form of his homeland.

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