Bài chòi in the contemporary life in Hội An

Friday, September 13, 2019 9:53:29 AM

Võ Phùng
Director of the Culture & Sports Center
Hội An City, Quảng Nam province


1/ Development phases of Bài chòi in Hội An:
- For a long time, like people in other places in Quảng Nam and provinces in the Central, Hội An residents, through oral transmission and communal activities, have accessed the art of bài chòi and folk game bài chòi – an exquisite game played in Tết festival in spring. Before the first half of the 20th century, to hold a Bài chòi play, the elderly built cabins and operated the play for the villagers. At that time, people announced with short sentences derived from folk verses and proverbs or invented and extempored by folk artists.
- In 1960s of the 20th century, some proactive performers in Hội An had been sent to classes of bài chòi tunes to learn and teach the movement members when they came back. However, in this period, bài chòi play was not constantly maintained as it was before due to the war.
- Since 1975 with the peace settlement, the foundation of Quảng Nam-Đà Nẵng Opera Company (known as Quảng Nam Folk Opera Company now) raised a sweeping movement among the public to enjoy and write new lyrics to bài chòi tunes. The adolescence in Hội An early joined the Company and then became proactive performers of the city; the organization of bài chòi festival in spring was restored in some certain hamlets in rural areas of Hội An but it was not a strong belief in a significant progress in the future.
- In the middle of 1980s, the art of bài chòi considerably thrived in rural areas but had not become an interest of city dwellers; but since the middle of 1990s, the art of bài chòi singing had become the strength of the movement of arts and cultural activities in Hội An. It had been the favourite of the locals and eagerly inherited by young generation.
Bài chòi play had seemingly been withered away. For so many years, when Tet festival comes, people built up cabins in the city and invite folk artists to sing and lead the play but only few old people came to join. Fortunately, in September 1998, the city included bài chòi play in the festival “The reappearance of Hội An old town night in the early 20th century” (or “Old town night” in short) – an over 16 year old festival; and it was in “Old town night”, thanks to the architectural space, the featured spatial light in old town, an increasing number of the locals and visitors joining festival, bài chòi play had really been revived in inner town (held every night) and periodically organized in hamlets and streets in Tet and other events.
Today it can be said that the art of bài chòi or bài chòi play is an important part of people’s cultural-spiritual life, an active tourism product of Hội An.
- Nowadays:
+ The art of bài chòi announcing and singing is an indispensable item in art performances frequently held in the city, wards, communes, schools and enterprises.
+ The art of bài chòi announcing and singing is the official subject in Secondary school.
+ Bài chòi play is the festival custom in almost every villages.
+ A class of bài chòi announcing and singing is open to children and visitors every night in old town.
+ Every night in old town, the art of Bài chòi and bài chòi play are always practiced to entertain the locals and visitors.
+ A travel tour offers 2 rations of the art of Bài chòi announcing and singing /day and the Traditional Art Theatre offers 1 ration /day for tourists.
+ Bài chòi play of Hội An has spreaded over the city’s frontier and Quảng Nam province to go for exchange in many other cities and provinces namely: Hồ Chí Minh City, Hà Nội, Khánh Hoà, Lâm Đồng, Thái Nguyên, Sóc Trăng, Quảng Ninh, Thanh Hoá etc and 9 times goes abroad to exchange with 7 nations: Thailand, China, South Korea, German, Italy, Hungary, Japan.
+ Bài chòi play of Hội An is obviously a specialty of cultural diplomacy of Quảng Nam province that has been introduced to foreign and domestic political delegations and governors.
It is undeniable that Bài chòi play has become a featured cultural-art product of Hội An.
2/ The force of composer, researcher, collector and organizer of bài chòi announcing and singing:
In the movement of composition, especially since the peace settlement, many non-professional writers have debuted and involved in the movement for a long time, contributing many short dramas, short plays, singings, tableaus, suites, folk song - bài chòi that have lasting vitality in public, boost tourism and win important awards in national, provincial and citified non-professional art shows.
Over current years, there are many enthusiastic researchers – collectors considerably dedicating to the study, providing knowledge and treasure of bài chòi tunes, inventing working methods.
3/ The force of folk artists and performers bài chòi announcing and singing:
Over the past 30 years, hundreds of non-professional folk artists – performers have debuted and actively and regularly work in the city and other locals.

Solutions and method of work:
1/ Emphasis the movement of bài chòi announcing and singing in locals:
Implement the Governmental policy of “Make traditional culture prosper” (1986) and “Construction and development of advanced Vietnamese culture imbued with national identity” (1998); Simultaneously, predict the trend of culture tourism development in local; Hội An city focuses on promoting kinds of folk art including the art of bài chòi in local movement of art activities.
a/Raise the movement of folk song - bài chòi announcing and singing of the city:
The city’s Culture & Sports Center is aware that the Center possesses professional knowledge while unions, other specialties and communes have members. The Center cooperates with the Women’s Union, Farmer’s Union, Youth Union, the Education sector, Radio station, Television station, wards and communes to require folk song - bài chòi to account for at least one third of all items in competitions, contests and festivals if performers want a chance to win. Besides, in the city, unions, the Education sector, wards and communes need to regularly hold contests and festivals specializing in folk song - bài chòi and bài chòi announcing and singing.
b/ Training the force of folk song - bài chòi and bài chòi announcing and singing:
- Before 2000, the city operated classes of folk song - bài chòi and traditional music instruments in local to train performers and instrumentalists for the movement.
- Since 2000, we had been aware that the local subject most easily be gathered and at most reasonable age was from the system of Secondary schools. Henceforth:
+ Since 2004, the city had included folk song - bài chòi in schools. A successive course is taught in 2 Secondary schools on Mondays of school year. Teachers are performers from the Center.
+ Since 2011, the city has kept opening classes of folk song - bài chòi for the city’s 2 Secondary schools. There are 20-30 pupils from 1 or 2 school classes come to learn each night. Each of the pupils joins the class 1 night/week. Visitors with aspiration to learn are also welcomed to these classes. It is not only a solution to preserve and promote the art of bài chòi but also an attractive cultural tourism product in Old town.
So far, those above 2 solutions have taken approximate 1 thousand participations of pupils to approach and gradually love bài chòi. They are the envoys spreading the art of Bài chòi to every family, school, and hamlets. Many of them have become proactive cores of bài chòi announcing and singing in schools and the local. Many compete in contests of bài chòi announcing and singing and win important prizes. Some join the circle of professional bài chòi performers – announcers in the city.
The performing and enjoying bài chòi have gradually become a habit in the community. Afterwards, the performances and activities of bài chòi folk songs are more frequently held, making the art of bài chòi a strong movement in local and a considerable part of the public’s culture-art life, including city dwellers. The number of folk song - bài chòi performers in local is also fiercely increasing.
2/ Spread, introduce and honor the art of bài chòi:
In order to keep the art of bài chòi alive and develop, we have to secure its position in the public which means it needs to be honored, spreaded, introduced to people. Right now in Hội An, there are no fewer than 10 teams and groups of bài chòi announcing and singing from the city and grassroots level that regularly participate in over 30 festivals every year, making the different feature of festivals in Hội An, Quảng Nam. In the city Culture & Sports Center, a Culture and Arts propaganda Team specializes folk song - bài chòi in their activity. And most noticeably, since 1996, the establishment of Hội An Traditional arts Theatre has assured the constant force of bài chòi announcers and singers to entertain the locals, foreign and domestic visitors at high capacity.
Other measures to spread – introduce the art of bài chòi are:
- Release 10 thousand CDs and DVDs of bài chòi folk song “Sentiment song of Hội An” up to now.
- Produce hundreds of news and publish articles, reportages, documents of press – television effectively introducing, spreading and honoring folk song - bài chòi and play in Hội An.
- Make the links with information, articles, images, videos about this art available on Google search when key words “bài chòi Hội An” are interrogated.
3/ Develop, train and tempt talents to upgrade the quality of bài chòi announcing, singing, music accompanying and performing:
To execute that enormous workload, the city has given solutions on human resource - talents:
a/ Recruit talents:
- Prioritize excellent and multi-talented performers to be recruited at agencies and tempt them to coordinate with the Center.
- Welcome non resident performers and traditional instrumentalists to join agencies of the city.
- Send talents in the movement to training courses as an investment for a bright future since they will come back and develop the city’s movement.
b/ Guarantee stable work and life for performers and folk artists:
Particular measurements, regulations and policies are parts of what secure performers and promote them to wholeheartedly devote to this art:
- Assure performances regularly on the stage to stabilize performers’ earnings.
- Consider people on post-acting term by sending them to courses of management, vocal training, street performance, foreign language, etc.

4/ Be harmony with the breath of arts and the contemporary life:
Bài chòi, to exist, develop and long live in the public, has to be adaptive and harmony with the breath of the contemporary life, concurrently maintain its quintessence and core value with no deformation. Solutions to this aim are:
- Take advantage of the innovative technical inventions (music, image, design, color …) to effectively support arts and public’s enjoyment.
- Make the public consent to the content of bài chòi which refers to the moral orientation derived from ancestors’ cultural treasure and simultaneously keep creating new content and styles of announcing and singing to meet modern life’s demand.
- Offer information about bài chòi in various languages, standard Vietnamese and visual presentations to foreign visitors and Vietnamese who are not from Hội An to satisfy their aspiration to enjoy and learn about this art.
Ultimately, the art of folk song - bài chòi in Hội An is a heritage, a local people’s product for thought and a cultural tourism product. We strongly believe that it will probably take root and enduringly develop in Hội An people’s culture – spiritual life and in the key economic industry of the city./.

Hội An, December 2014



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