More than 400 veteran and amateur artisans from the Central Highlands took part in the third Gongs Cultural Festival in Buon Ma Thuot city of Dak Lak province from December 28-29.
Sixty gong and dance performances were staged by 13 traditional ethnic art troupes including the Van Kieu, K’tu, H’re, K’dong, Cham roi, Rak lay, Gie Trieng, H’mong, Ba Na, K’ho, Gia Rai, Xe Dang and E De. The artisans, dressed in traditional costumes, sang, danced and played traditional Cong and Chieng (Gongs) instruments. (the Cong has a knob in the middle while Chieng has none).
Local art troupes were dispatched to Krong Pack, Ea kar, Cu Mgar and Krong Buk to serve local ethnic minority people.
Organisers hoped that the two-day festival would help artists and local people alike to learn more about each other’s culture and lifestyle, and also cement unity among ethnic minorities in the region.
The festival was part of the cultural and festive programmes to mark the 100th founding anniversary of Buon Ma Thuot city and the 30th anniversary of the city’s victory.
Gongs preservation and challenges
Over the past years, joint efforts have been made to preserve the Gongs culture. Dak Lak province issued instructions on the preservation of the gongs culture. It strictly banned the trading and transport of gongs to other provinces, except for special cases authorised by the provincial Culture and Information Department. The department is authorised to purchase gongs from local people for preservation purposes.
Cultural experts hoped that the instructions would help raise local people’s awareness of preserving gongs as a cultural heritage and stop the trading and transport of this heritage.
The provincial cultural department organised traditional instrumental music festivals to raise awareness among local people.
Gong and Chieng sounds symbolise moral standards for Central Highlanders. However, according to Hoang Chuyen, deputy director of the Dak Lak province’s Culture and Information Department, both Dak Lak and Dak Nong provinces have lost 859 sets of gongs in the past decade. Poverty and hunger were cited as one of the main reasons for local people to sell gongs. On the other hand, the provincial cultural and information departments cannot afford to purchase hundreds of sets of gongs.
It is not easy to find ethnic youths who are gongs connoisseurs. A village chief in Krong Na, commune Don hamlet, complained that young people today prefer foreign music to gongs music and that they frequently listen to Chinese and western music from Cassette and discs players instead of going to gongs clubs.
This means the promotion of the gongs culture is not only conducted through campaigns but also included in curricula at ethnic boarding schools and culture and arts schools.
The living conditions of Central Highlanders will gradually improve and the trading of gongs will be less. However, the most important thing now is to make local people understand the potential value of the gongs culture.
Good news has reached the Central Highlands. Minister of Culture and Information Pham Quang Nghi told local Central Highlanders at a recent meeting in the region that the ministry already submitted dossiers to the UNESCO to recognise Gongs as a world cultural heritage.
Reprinted from VOV News