Sinh ca, the unique folk singing of the Cao Lan
ethnic group in the northern province of Tuyen Quang, is fading from the group’s
daily lives, said Tieu Xuan Hoc, 68, of Minh Cam Village.
"Teenagers who couldn’t sing sinh ca used to find it difficult to make friends,"
said Hoc. "This way of singing was once considered spiritual and an essential
Singing sinh ca was a good way for young men and women to understand one
another, as they were able to change the words to fit the circumstances.
Many couples in the village who fell in love and later married after meeting at
singing festivals included Au Van Chinh, 70, and his wife Ninh Thi Nhan.
Chinh and his wife even now always sing the folk songs to each other.
"I have been singing sinh ca since I was 15," said Nhan. "At that time, I never
felt bored as I sang with all my passion. Now that I’m getting old, I want to
teach the next generation, but no one wants to learn. I’m afraid that when
people of my age die, there will be no one who can sing the songs."
"The songs are now mainly in the minds of old people," said Ma Van Duc, deputy
head of Tuyen Quang’s Culture Department. "The songs have been taught from
Five books of sinh ca songs sung at night and one of songs sung at weddings had
been gathered, Duc said.
He said that the department was implementing a project in Doi Binh Commune to
preserve the Cao Lan ethnic group’s culture.
"A class for teaching sinh ca has been started, but the number of people
learning there remains small," Duc said.
"Studying it myself is difficult, let alone teaching it to my own children,"
said a member of the class, Ha Van Quang. "It requires both patience and
Another class, taught by award-winning singer Lam Van Cau, teaches sinh ca
dances and songs to a group of about 20 teenagers at the cultural house in Cay
"Most young people learn the folk songs and dances very quickly," Cau said. "But
the class is held in summer only. If there is no long-term opportunity to use
what they have learned, they won’t long remember it."
Tuyen Quang Province has a budget of more than VND2 billion (US$103,000) to
establish a cultural village for the Cao Lan in Yen Son District.
"The local art troupe has transformed sinh ca into a more up-to-date style to
perform at local events," said Duc. "Yen Son District supports a club of elderly
people who sing sinh ca. They gather to practise and teach younger people at
least once a week."