Lam Dong battle to evoke gong’s soul as development accelerates

Jul 07th 2018.

The space of Gong culture in Vietnam’s Central Highlands was recognised by the UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005. In Lam Dong province, although it once faced the threat of being buried in oblivion, the practice of resounding gongs has been preserved and revived thanks to the joint efforts made by local practitioners and the authorities.

When destruction comes very close

According to elderly K’Liuh, the loss of the practice is due to the fact that the forest areas in the Central Highlands have seriously declined. Without forests – the major space for gong performances, people can’t hear the wild call from the pristine beauty and Mother Nature, he explained.

Consequently, gongs are now performed at festivals, competitions, tourist attractions, and cultural exchange programmes. Many of them are staged according to a fixed script, which may change the instinctual nature and appealing power of gong culture, veteran artisan K’Breoh said.

Ma ethnic people in Lam Dong province join a gong performance

Ma ethnic people in Lam Dong province join a gong performance

“That Central Highlanders are now living together with other ethnic tribes somehow changes their customs and traditional practices,” added Nguyen Thi Huyen Phuong, Head of Cultural and Information Office of Bao Loc city, Lam Dong province

In addition, economic growth and rapid urbanisation have also brought about other interests to the cultural actors of gong culture rather than just gathering for playing gongs, she stated.

Sharing the same view, K’Tu, head of the gong troupe in hamlet 15, Loc Thanh Commune, Bao Lam district, Lam Dong province, said that nowadays, young people have to go to work, thus they have less time to practice gongs than the previous generations. “If we gather them for practice, they asked whether they can get money from this,” he said with a sigh.

Even more concerning, due to poverty and lack of awareness, some people sold their gongs, which are believed to indicate a family’s wealth, authority and prestige, thus making a sharp decrease in the number of gong sets, Deputy Director of Culture and Sports Centre of Lam Ha district, K’The said.

The threat of destruction in the practice of gongs also comes from the fact that many ancient gong tunes have been lost.

Vowing to keep ancestors’ cultural identity alive

Since 2009, a total of 48 free classes teaching gong playing have been organised by Lam Dong provincial authorities to educate and hand down the heritage to younger generations. (Photo: baolamdong.vn)

In a bid to protect the ancestors’ cultural traditions amidst rapid urbanisation, veteran artisans from across the communes and districts in Lam Dong province have taken actions to educate and hand down the heritage to younger generations.

Director of Lam Dong provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Nguyen Thi Nguyet, said that since the space of gong culture received UNESCO status, the department has closely supported the provincial People’s Committee in building and implementing a project on preserving and promoting the heritage.

the free classes teaching gong playing have been organised by Lam Dong provincial authorities

the free classes teaching gong playing have been organised by Lam Dong provincial authorities

According to Director Nguyen, since 2009, a total of 48 free classes teaching gong playing have been organised by the provincial authorities, benefiting more than 1,150 children from the Ma, K’Ho and Chu Du ethnic groups.

Fifteen sets of gongs have also been presented to districts and 16 gong playing troupes have been set up in Lac Duong, Duc Trong, and Da Huoai districts, as well as Da Lat and Bao Loc cities, in order to maintain the practice of gongs while providing performances for visitors to the localities.

The province has successfully hosted nine gong culture festivals, which honoured nearly 100 outstanding gong practitioners and nurtured the younger generation among gong artisans.

Nguyen Ry, former Principal of Bao Lam district’s boarding school, called on more active participation from travel agents and tourism businesses in designing cultural tours honouring gong music, which could help to improve the standard of living for gong players.

Of the same opinion, Director Nguyen said that travel businesses have been seen as a significant resource in safeguarding and upholding the treasured value of gong culture by integrating gong music in their tours and activities.

“We are working with the Lac Duong district authorities on a project of setting up an authentic gong cultural space so that visitors can be fully introduced to the long-standing practice,” she revealed.

The department has also mobilised tourist sites to zone off an area to reproduce the daily lives of the Central Highlanders, which will help visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the indigenous culture as well as the social background of gong culture.

Nhan Dan Online

Lam Dong battle to evoke gong’s soul as development accelerates
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