September, 28 2012 10:06:18

Village drum maker marches to quieter tune


Noise-maker: Trong boi is modest but popular toy enjoyed by generations of Vietnamese children. — File Photos


Drum major: Nguyen Van Huong has spent 50 years making the trong boi.

NAM DINH (VNS)— As the Mid-Autumn festival approaches, streets are filled with colourful toys and the sound of the trong boi (paper drum), a tiny traditional toy, can be heard everywhere.

The trong boi has long been a popular toy among children at festival time. However in recent years, foreign imports of flashy toys seem to have taken over.

Bao Dap Village in the northern province of Nam Dinh was known as the home of the trong boi, but nowadays, craftsmen in the village make star-shaped lanterns because they are easier to sell. Only one artisan, Nguyen Van Huong, who has made paper drums for 50 years, still pursues the trade.

In the past, paper drums were the village's main source of income, and paper lanterns were a seasonal commodity that were only in demand during the Mid-Autumn festival, while tambourines were popular the year round, according to Huong.

"Over the past 10 years, the art has slowly died off, and now I am the only one who works in the trade," he said. "Some people continue to make them for their children, but not for sale."

Like other traditional toys, the trong boi is a modest and beautiful toy. Materials are cheap and easy to find, such as clay, bamboo splints, plastic sticks and paper.

The whole process takes Huong through certain steps. He collects clay in the morning when the land is wet with dew, and it's easy to dig and knead.

The clay is kneaded into small circular frames, and dried until it becomes hard like bricks.

The frames are then covered by pink or red paper with glue made from boiled glutinous rice powder. The most important process is ensuring there are no gaps between the paper and the frames.


Sick children to celebrate

HCM CITY — Children at the National Pediatrics Hospital in Ha Noi will be treated to a day of fun and games as well as an evening of live music as they celebrate the Full Moon Festival which falls on Sunday this year.

The 22nd edition of the Bring Your Music to the Hospital programme will feature performances by famous singers Thai Thuy Linh and Ung Anh Tuan.

A special treat for the children will be the participation of Dang Quan and Bao Ngoc, winners of many children's contests including Vietnam's Got Talent 2011.

Young singers from Do Re Mi competition will also take part in the celebration.

This year, an additional event in the programme – Vang Trang Nhan Ai (Kind moon) – will have children join activities like learning to make moon cakes, star lanterns and to he (toy figurine). They will also be able to play several folk games.

Bring Your Music to the Hospital is a volunteer programme organised by the Youth Union of the Ministry of Health, the Young Artists and MC Association, O2 TV channel, NSN Communication and Entertainment Company, Vietsea.asia, Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam and the Viet Nam Posts and Telecommunications Group. — VNS

A drumstick made from bamboo only a little bigger than a toothpick is tied to the tiny double-faced drum and the handle. When the handle is rotated, the drumstick beats onto the drum skin.

Huong said he was the only one in the village invited to display his craft at the Viet Nam Museum of Ethnology during the Mid-Autumn festival.

"Both children and adults are full of admiration and interest when they see how I make the toys," Huong said.

"An old proverb says: ‘Gia choi trong boi (Old men play trong boi)'. That is used to mock at old people who still have affairs with young girls and lose their dignity," Huong said. "It makes me sad that many young people only know the trong boi through the saying, but they don't know what it actually is."

All of his family know how to make the toy, and produce 20,000-30,000 each year.

"We have to make lanterns and artificial flowers to earn more money because profits from selling the trong boi are not enough for my family to live on," he said.

"We continue to make paper drums to prevent them from disappearing altogether, preserving a traditional Vietnamese toy. We don't want them to become a distant memory, remembered only by the proverb." — VNS

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