Six organisations and five individuals who have contributed to preserving and developing the artistic value of UNESCO recognised heritage Don ca tai tu received merit certificates from the Prime Minister at the opening ceremony of the first National Don Ca Tai Tu Festival in Bac Lieu on April 25 night.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam handed the certificates to the awardees on behalf of the Government and Prime Minister. The five individuals who received the certificates were Professor Tran Van Khe, musical advisor at Vietnam Institute of Musicology, Associate Professor Le Van Toan, Director Vietnam Institute of Musicology, Professor To Ngoc Thanh, Chairman of the Vietnam Folk Arts Association, composer Trong Nguyen and reseacher Tran Quoc Thinh of Bac Lieu province.

"The festival is organised by Bac Lieu, the birthplace of Don ca tai tu, along with other localities in the region to show our gratitude to the ancestors, individuals and organisations who contributed to creating and preserving the music," Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said at the opening ceremony.

Dam also said it was a challenge for people to maintain the unique art form's spirit and soul. "Things that seem very simple have become a heritage of humankind," he noted.

The national festival aimed to highlight the value of this Vietnamese art form, four months after it was recognised as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

The festival gathered 350 artists from 21 provinces and cities in the southern region, where the music is popular. Bac Lieu city is the centre of the activities, which include exhibitions of paintings, photos and traditional musical instruments and Don ca tai tu performances.

Vo Van Dung, secretary of Bac Lieu Province's Party Committee, said the festival was an opportunity for people in southern provinces to boost solidarity for better development.

"We are aware that culture is one of the essential factors for development," Dung said.

A few hours before the official opening ceremony for the festival, local and central officials inaugurated the 2,772sq.m. memorial site to Cao Van Lau (1892-1976), known as the father of cai luong or southern traditional opera. They recognised the site, which cost 6.3 billion VND to renovate, as a national historical cultural site.

Placed where the musician was buried in 1976, the memorial was listed as a provincial historical cultural site in 1997.

Bac Lieu is where the musician wrote classic cai luong piece Da co hoai lang in 1919. It tells the story of a wife waiting for her husband to return home from battle.

Considered one of the country's main music genres, Don ca tai tu originated from Hue court music and folk music of the southern region. The genre has been developing since the 19th century, adapting to local tastes. It thrived in the early 20th century and remains crucial to the country's traditional culture.

The music is typically performed at festivals, death anniversary rituals and celebrations by farmer-artists. Instrumentalists and singers express their feelings by improvising based on 20 principal songs and 72 classical songs. The art has been handed down orally through generations.

The festival will last until April 29.-VNA