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Cham ethnic minorities treasure folklore (January 16, 2004)

The Cham people call their singing Adtoh Aydon, which includes folk songs, lullabies, love songs and duets. At any place and at any time, love duets drift through the atmosphere of the Cham community, no matter where they are and what they are doing. The Cham people follow a matriarchal system, with women taking a leading role in marriage. Cham women seek their lifetime partners by conveying their message of love through song, which express their feeling of heart and soul, their secret emotions and their desire for love.

Ama Nhan, who composed a Cham love song, relayed the lyrics of the song, "In moonlit nights, young Cham women gather to husk rice and wait for their dear ones. When their men are spotted from afar, they start to sing: "Who is coming in the distance, like the one in my mind. Oh birds, you fly off to the far-away mountain and forget the branch on which you once lodged." Cham folk songs are lyrical with a vague sadness, articulating the sentiments of men and women, who make rice husking places or the wharf their rendezvous."

Once a man falls for a woman, he will express this with simple and modest verses, and the pair begin a duet. This genre is extremely expressive and is performed not only through words, sound and tones, but also with the exchange of suggestive glances and smiles. Cham women express love in a passionate and sophisticated manner, "Can you ever understand, the smile that hides the sorrow which torments my heart night after night."

Like their peers from the Kinh ethnic majority group, young Cham women often take the gentle moonlight and the gentle breeze as a reason to express their feelings and to contemplate life and love.

Ama Nhan is one of the most celebrated Cham composers. His songs feature various themes of his community, its land and people, and love. He is also the author of a number of songs in praise of the late President HCM, the brilliant son of the Vietnamese nation. Whatever themes he touches on, Ama Nhan’s songs have always been touched by the distinctive Cham folklore.

Ama Nhan said, "Each composer seeks his inspiration from his own sources and perspectives. My songs often encompass people’s daily routines and the cultural life of the Cham people, with an aim of feeling the outside community about us. Because love is the sweet fruit of daily life, I think the theme of love has a definite value."

Love songs are an indispensable component in Cham culture. Cham women, with their sensitivity, creativity and their quick-wit, have dedicated their mind and souls to enriching and diversifying the treasury of music and poetry.

Phan Quoc Anh, the Deputy Director of the Department of Culture and Information of the central province of Ninh Thuan, said, "The Cham ethnic minorities have a flourishing culture, which is known as the Cham Pa civilization. Cham music has made an impact on Vietnamese culture, particularly on royal court music, renovated opera and on traditional Vietnamese music. Historians and cultural researchers suggest that cultural exchanges between the Viet majority and the Cham minority even spread as far as to the northern province of Bac Ninh, with some Cham musical rhythms can be found in this region’s unique genre: Quan Ho folk singing. Cham music originated from various religions including Islam and Buddhism, and is mainly played during religious rituals."

Reprinted from VOV News


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