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UNESCO lists folk songs in central Vietnam as Cultural Heritage of Humanity

“Vi” and “Giam” folk songs typical of the north-central Vietnamese provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh have just been acknowledged by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, an official of Vietnam’s Department of Cultural Heritage said Friday.

Performers of Ngoc Son Club in Nghe An Province practice "Vi" and "Giam" folk songs, which are typical of the north-central Vietnamese provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh.
Performers of Ngoc Son Club in Nghe An Province practice “Vi” and “Giam” folk songs, which are typical of the north-central Vietnamese provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh.

The UNESCO Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage inscribed “Vi” and “Giam” folk songs as one of the new 34 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on Thursday afternoon (Paris time), according to the organization’s website.

The inscription was made during the 9th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which took place in Paris from Monday to Friday.

The list now numbers 314 elements.

“Vi” and “Giam” folk songs are typically sung while people cultivate rice in the fields, row boats, make conical hats or lull children to sleep, the website says.

The songs focus on key values and virtues including respect for parents, loyalty, care and devotion, and the importance of honesty and a good heart.

The singing helps ease people’s hardship while working, relieves their sorrows, and also serves as a means for men and women to express their feelings for one another.

According to Nguyen Thi Thu Trang, an official of the Vietnamese Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, the Southeast Asian country’s application dossier for the folk songs met all five UNESCO criteria.

“The recognition is strongly indicative of the global appreciation for this unique music genre and also reminds the communities who practice the songs and local governments to make greater effort to preserve and sustainably develop the time-honored heritage,” Trang said.

The department’s statistics show that 75 groups and clubs in north-central provinces with around 1,500 members currently practice the genre and pass it on future generations.

Some typical troupes include Hong Son and Ngoc Son Clubs in Nghe An; and O Nhan and Thanh Khe Clubs in Ha Tinh.

The music has been practiced and taught effectively in 15 of Nghe An’s districts and 12 districts in Ha Tinh.

Other elements included on the UNESCO list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity this time are the Turkish art of paper marbling; the Uzbekistani art of jocular dialogue; Lebanon’s Al-Zajal poetry; knuckle-bone shooting in Mongolia; and Portuguese Cante Alentejano chanting.