Meritorious artist Nguyen Thi Ban (Source: ngaynay)
Bac Ninh (VNA) – Eighty-three-year-old Meritorious Artist Nguyen Thi Ban has devoted her life to preserving “Quan ho” (love duet singing).

Despite her age, Ban is still nimble and sound of mind. When visitors arrive at her home in Viem Xa hamlet, Hoa Long commune, Bac Ninh city, the same name province, she starts to sing an ancient songs and invite them in for a drink.

Wearing a triangle kerchief on her forehead and a traditional dress of the northern delta, she quickly shapes betel into the shape of phoenix wings to treat her callers.

Ban said she was born into a family with a long tradition of “Quan ho” singing, and she was introduced to the music as a child.

When she was 7 years old, Ban’s father passed away. She was taken to live with her grandmother – one of the rare families in the village to have “Nha chua Quan ho” (houses where Quan ho singers gather for to practise and perform).

She quickly picked up the art form, and was accepted into the singing class as the youngest student thanks to her intelligence and passion.

She was able to learn the lyrics quickly, even the difficult ones, in only three nights.

When she was nine years old, she could sing over 100 ancient “Quan ho” songs fluently.

Three years later, Ban joined a group of “Quan ho” singers and staged performances in Biu village in the neighbouring district of Tien Du.

As she reached the age of 15, Ban established a group of eight “Quan ho” singers who travelled around to perform in different places.

Since then, the traditional music has become an indispensable part of her life. Wherever at home or work, she sings with great enthusiasm.

When she got married, she turned the ancient lyrics into nursery songs to nurture a love for “Quan ho” among the younger generations.

To increase her knowledge, she continued to learn a variety of “Quan ho” songs, including difficult tunes such as “Hu La”.

She has been teaching the music to hundreds of “Quan ho” lovers from different generations.

The “Quan ho” team now under her guidance has won many prizes at local singing contests.

Ban said she is glad to welcome many visitors to her village, especially youngsters who record her lyrics to practise at home.

She has asked authorities to design plans to preserve ancient “Quan ho” songs by collecting documents and photos related to the music and teaching it in schools.

In April 2010, the provincial People’s Committee honoured Ban as an artisan of “Quan ho Bac Ninh” in recognition of her significant preservation contributions. In 2015, Ban was recognised as a Meritorious Artist by the President.

The folk love duets were recognised as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2009.-VNA