Quan ho Bac Ninh is traditional music that is very well-known in Kinh Bac region including Bac Ninh and Bac Giang. In the performance, there are 2 main groups of male singers (lien anh) from one village and female singers (lien chi) from another village who will show the close-knit relation through the songs. Each group has 4 to 6 people whose names are based on their ages such as “Second Sister”, “Third Sister”, “Fourth Sister”, or “Second Brother”, “Third Brother”, “Fourth Brother”, etc. If the size of a group is more than 6, they will be divided into “older siblings” and “younger siblings” named as the “Third Older Sister”, “Third Younger Sister” or “Third Older Brother”, “Third Younger Brother”, etc. During the performance, each group will alternating response harmoniously to each other with the same melodies but different lyrics.

Quan Ho Bac Ninh Folk Songs

Quan Ho Bac Ninh Folk Songs

Transmitted orally through many generations, Quan ho is considered having the most melodies among folk-song genres of Vietnamese traditional music. Quan ho folk songs own 213 different melodies and over 400 song lyrics. Each song lyric consists of 2 parts with the main text is the core of the song derived from Vietnamese poems and folk verses and the additional text including words like i hi, u hu, a ha, etc. to support the melodies.
Quan ho folk songs derived from making-friend custom following the rule that male groups from one village will make friends with female groups from another village by singing. Besides, gastronomy is also a typical feature of Quan ho which includes phoenix wing-shaped quid of betel and areca. The meal must have a red tray (mam son) made of timber and painted red to show the hospitality of the host to visitors. Dishes are based on each village’s custom, however, a plate of chicken, two plates of lean pork paste, and lean pork are compulsory. Notably, fat dishes are a taboo to avoid damaging voice.

Quan Ho singing performance on boat in the festival, Bac Ninh

Quan Ho singing performance on boat in the festival, Bac Ninh

When performing Quan ho folk songs, women need to wear “non thung quai thao” (a kind of hat), camisole, tunic, skirt, scarves tied about the waist, and slippers. Their hair will be wrapped by a scarf. As for men, their costume consists of a turban, umbrella, shirt, or robe including undershirts and long tunics with 5 pieces, trousers, and slippers.

In performance, the outfits of Quan ho are distinctive. The female traditional costume includes non thung quai thao (the large round Quan ho hat) and scarf for wrapping the hair, camisole, tunic, skirt, scarves tied about the waist, and slippers. The male costume includes a turban, umbrella, shirt, or robe including undershirts and long tunics with five pieces, trousers, and slippers. Because of distinctive features about performing arts, lyrics, costume, style of contact, and cultural value, Quan ho folk songs were listed in the intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2009 by UNESCO.