The Ministry of Culture of Vietnam is collaborating with international agencies to develop a national action plan to safeguard nha nhac music.
Local and international experts gathered in the former imperial city of Hue last Friday for a workshop to discuss the action plan. At the two-day workshop were representatives of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Cultural Heritage Department, UNESCO, the Japanese embassy, and court music artists and practitioners.
The safeguard plan aims to strengthen transmission of the music, create a group of young and skilled musicians and performers, and document reminiscences from the nha nhac community.
The plan takes into consideration all of the required elements emphasized in the 2003 Convention for the Safeguard of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The project is supported by UNESCO through the UNESCO-Japan Fund in Trust for Intangible Cultural Heritage programs.
According to UNESCO, Nha Nhac, meaning “elegant music”, refers to a broad range of musical and dance styles performed at the Vietnamese royal court from the fifteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Nha Nhac was generally featured at the opening and closing of ceremonies associated with anniversaries, religious holidays, coronations, funerals and official receptions.
Among the numerous musical genres that developed in Vietnam, only Nha Nhac can claim a nationwide scope and strong links with the traditions of other East Asian countries. Nha Nhac performances formerly featured numerous singers, dancers and musicians dressed in sumptuous costumes. Large-scale orchestras included a prominent drum section and many other types of percussion instruments as well as a variety of wind and string instruments. All performers had to maintain a high level of concentration since they were expected to follow each step of the ritual meticulously.