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Central Highlanders preserve instruments for the future

The Cong and Chieng festival takes place every year to preserve

The Cong and Chieng, both types of gongs, are musical instruments of cultural value from Vietnam’s Central Highlands. The bronze instruments are often plated with gold or black brass. The Cong has a centred nipple while Chieng is flat with a different sound.

Gongs are of different sizes and can be as big as 120 cm in diametre. They can be played in sets of up to 20. Gong festivals are revered among Central Highlands ethnic groups. Most families own gongs and the number of gongs they own signifies their wealth. An affluent family may own several sets of gongs.

Gong music is an essential part of communities’ spiritual lives. They are often played on sacred occasions such as New Year celebrations, death anniversaries, house-warming ceremonies, for a bumper harvest or other agricultural rituals. During gala nights, gongs are played amidst the flickering fires of the central area, surrounded by towering mountains and forests, instilling courage, confidence and pride among all participants.

"The sound of gongs, when they are played, fill people with pride and patriotism because the instrument has been part of Central Highlands life since ancient time, says Ro Cham Tin of the J’Rai ethnic group - a keen player of gongs. "I play gongs during major festivals because they produce the most impressive sounds. I often give my best performances on the gongs when I attend such festivals, and the sounds of the gongs cheer both players and listeners."

Many ethnic groups in the Truong Son Mountain Range and the Central Highlands play gongs in large orchestras for a massive sound. They often arrange several sets of gongs of different types and sizes to make up an orchestra. Gongs are played by a stick or by the player’s fist. Some ethnic groups have created very subtle ways of playing the gongs. In certain places, only men are allowed to play. However, the gong band of the Muong ethnic group comprises only women players. In other groups, gongs are played by both men and women. Taboos vary from one group to another regarding gong performances.

In addition to gongs, the Central Highlands region is also home to many other musical instruments such as the T’rung, the Klongput, water instruments and pipes. These valuable cultural aspects of ethnic groups in the region are being preserved for future generations.

VOV - (19/09/2005)

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