Cai Luong has just celebrated its 100th year. In its long history, Cai Luong has seen the patronage and generous benevolence of the country’s businessmen and lovers of the art, who have helped sustain Cai Luong by lending support to its various composers and artists, so that Cai Luong stays a living art form.
To name some generous sponsors, there are Truong Van Ben and Bui Quang Chieu from the Vietnam Industry Association and Vietnamese merchants; and Tran Dac Nghia, owner of a Sai Gon bus business, who not only has provided funds to build the Tran Dac troupe, but also helped composer Nguyen Thanh Chau (Nam Chau) to write many modern day scripts with the slogan "True and Beautiful".
Along with the Tran Dac troupe, the Phuoc Cuong troupe of “White Dandy” Le Cong Phuoc and Nguyen Ngoc Cuong (father of artist Kim Cuong) are the two biggest Cai Luong troupes of our time. The Phuoc Cuong troupe has many top artists such as Nam Phi, Tam Danh and Tam Meo. Lately, Le Cong Phuoc has established the Huynh Ky troupe, the largest troupe in the six provinces of the South of Vietnam.
With a deep love for Cai Luong, Le Cong Phuoc is using his wealth to support and transport artists by his boat to perform Cai Luong in many places, including in remote areas such as Vinh Kim, Ba Dua, and Cai Thia. White Dandy also built the Huynh Ky theater so that Cai Luong has a permanent place to hold performances regularly. Both researcher Vuong Hong Sen and artist Ba Van respect White Dandy and consider him an important contributor to the development of Cai Luong.
Many hands make light work
Over time, Cai Luong has faced many ups and downs. Now, as the world enters the digital era, competition comes in the form of more and more new types of entertainment. Without the support of sponsors and patrons, who truly believe in and love this traditional art form, Cai Luong will find it difficult to survive.
The main sponsor of the popular Golden Bell Contest, the Cai Luong program on HTV which has been around for over a decade, is the Saigonbank that has supported this contest since 2011. The management board of Saigonbank said they want is to contribute towards maintaining and honoring this traditional art form of the South. Thanks to this long-term patronage, many Cai Luong programs are regularly shown on television, and many new talent-discovery competitions are held.
In recent times, Cai Luong has received a "resurrection" in the form of a Cai Luong theater in the South, with the generous support of many social groups. The Chi Linh-Van Ha theater is one of the most successful in bringing Cai Luong to greater audiences, by regular gatherings of top artists, and investing in creating attractive new plays and beautiful costumes.
In July 2019, all tickets for the play “Doan Hong Ngoc wins Thuan Duong battle” sold out very quickly. The theater had to even sell extra tickets for upstairs seating by adding more chairs. However, the writers of the play, the artist couple Chi Linh-Van Ha, found it difficult to raise enough financial resources during the process of developing the act, despite a lot of help from the producer Tran Hao.
Recently, the newly opened Dai Viet stage has become well known after the success of the play Khau Vai Love Story. Challenged with producing the new play and a new way of performance, the creator anticipated many difficulties, but still made it happen. Although the auditorium was not always full, with the support from Nutifood, DonaCoop and a number of other partners, the play continued to run for many nights.
Representative of the Green Horizon Company and producer of the program “Cai Luong-Hundred Years of Origin”, said, “we organized the program to rekindle the interest and value of this traditional art form, and rebuild love for Cai Luong among new audiences, especially the youth. Our wish received much empathy from many organizations and businesses. For instance, Saigon Commercial Joint Stock Bank (SCB) has been lending huge support to this program by buying tickets for their customers and employees, and creating conditions for more people to experience the beauty of this traditional art form of the South. Green Horizon is also promoting upcoming performances in September and October in schools and cultural departments of universities, to further introduce the art of Cai Luong to younger audiences, as we believe that many hands make light work".
Although it is still too early to be optimistic about the resurgence of this traditional art form, but with the tireless efforts of the Cai Luong troupes and the continuing support and generosity of the business community, the producer believes that Cai Luong will continue to nurture for generations to come.