Tuong singing (Boi singing)

Tuong”, also called “Boi” singing or “Luong Tuong”, is the most classical and scholarly drama of Vietnam and developed from literature with folk songs and traditional dance. Till the end of the 18th century, “Tuong” was totally developed with great scripts and performances.

As the oldest performance art in Vietnam, “Tuong” has developed for hundreds of years. The person who set the ground for “Tuong” in Vietnam was Dao Duy Tu (1572 – 1634), a poet, artist and diplomat in “Đàng Trong” in the times of Nguyen‘s Lords. But Dao Duy Tu couldn’t make “Tuong” the most prominent art performance of the South Vietnam but Dao Tan (1845 – 1907). Dao Tan was born in Binh Dinh Province which is the cradle of “Tuong” nowadays. He was the author of hundreds of poems and the teachers of many bands as well as the great director and ideologist.

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Unlike the other art performances of Vietnam, “Tuong” always brings grand sounds of the patriots, national heoroes and the lessons of the behaving ways in family, nation… The central character is always a heroes breaking the imprisonment of situation and act bravely.

However, many Chinese researchers of the Peking Opera think that “Tuong” is similar to their opera but the dialogues of the artist have to be specialized clearly.

Even so, the similarities between “Tuong” and the Peking Opera in China such as characters appearances, clothing and faces… can be seen by eyes but the human culture of Vietnamese people is sparkle in each “Tuong” performances. The nature of “Tuong” is the talent and innovation of the artist.

In each performances of “Tuong”, music is the most important element that can attract the audiences beside the dialogues of the characters. The main instruments are drums, gongs, wooden bell, flute and many others stringed instruments. Music in “Tuong” performance consists of two major parts: instrumental music and vocal music. The number of instruments is not fixed.

Vocal music is created by two elements: methodical part and unmethodical one. The methodical part consists of three types: the small – for minor characters, clown; the normal – appear in woeful and sad situation; the main which is longer and classified into many parts such as love, funny, mighty…

The unmethodical way is the basic melodies and very popular. Its freestyle features make characters easier to act in their ways. This type of vocal music is sorted into two types: stable rhythm and freestyle. In each this types, there are many other smaller parts such as declamation, repartee…

About the art of singing, the “Tuong” singers, before each plays, have to prepare carefully by practicing day by day, play by play. Singing with standard and clearly sounds is one of the most important criteria beside the others like the sound have to be loud enough, not too small or too noisy…

It’s impossible to study about “Tuong” like study the singing way of a common song. The features of the Vietnamese folk songs are freestyle and “Tuong” was so.

The most prominent areas of Tuong are Binh Dinh and Quang Nam province. Binh Dinh, the land of martial art in Vietnam which is the cradle of the Tay Son movements and the great general Quang Trung. So it’s easy to understand why this place is the heaven for “Tuong” – the art performance full of heroes’ images and epic moments. Unlike Binh Dinh, Tuong in Quang Nam is associated with other legend. The first Tuong band in Quang Nam named My Luu. This band played very well but a storm had thrown away their main drums which made them go out of business. Afterward, the land where My Luu band had been found and developed became the cradle of many other Tuong band like nowadays.