Artist wants gong culture
taught in schools
Sulistyo Tirtokusumo, head of the
Indonesian delegation at the International Gong Festival in Gia Lai Province
this weekend, is also a gong artist and official of Indonesia’s Ministry of
Culture and Tourism. He spoke with Viet Nam News about preserving gong
proud: Viet Nam’s biggest copper gong is on display at Pleiku’s Dong
Xanh Cultural Park, as part of the International Gong Festival this
weekend. — VNS Photo Van Dat
Please explain the presentation that
your delegation just performed.
It’s about human life actually: the death and life of human
beings. The message to the gong festival is about human relationships. Human
relations are very important, especially between Indonesia and Viet Nam.
Furthermore, it is not just between two countries, but all countries in the
world. By understanding human beings and life among nations, we are able to send
a message of peace to the rest of the world.
Besides the performances at festivals like this, do Indonesians
often play gongs in their villages?
We have more than 300 ethnic groups and each group has its own
typical gong culture, but we understand each other. We call it ethnic groups,
not ethnic minorities, because we don’t like to consider anyone a minority. The
compositions of the gong come from many ethnic groups in Indonesia but we
consider the music as belonging to Indonesia.
After seeing Vietnamese artists, do
you see any differences between the gong culture between Viet Nam and Indonesia
We don’t see any difference. What we have seen is the
similarity. What we can see from the festival here is that Vietnamese gong
performers walk while they play. Our gong artists sit while playing. Most of our
performances are outdoors and we sit when performing.
There are three kinds of gong. One we can play outdoors, another
indoors and the other we play when walking. Our presentation here is for
outdoors. When we play the indoor style, the sound of our melodies are soft.
The people in the Central Highlands
provinces play gongs after harvest time and other important occasions. How about
Indonesians? Is the gong culture valued in the spiritual life of your people?
It’s similar to Vietnamese. Indonesian people play gongs on
three occasions, the birth of a baby, marriage and death. We also play gongs to
prevent bad things from coming to the villagers, such as epidemics, and we ask
for rain after a long time of drought.
GIA LAI —
Viet Nam’s biggest copper gong is being displayed at Pleiku city’s Dong
Xanh (Green Field) Cultural Park during the four-day International Gong
Festival in Gia Lai Province, which began on Thursday.
The giant gong, 2.5m in diametre and 700kg in weight, was made by artisan
Duong Ngoc Truyen of Phuoc Kieu Village in Quang Nam Province’s Dien Ban
The gong is being displayed in a spacious area along with other items that
depict the spiritual life of ethnic minorities, such as stilt houses,
communal houses and tombs of the Gia Rai ethnic group.
The Vietnamese Guinness Records Centre yesterday held a ceremony to
recognise the musical instrument as Viet Nam’s largest-ever gong made in
Popular among museum visitors were the country’s largest bronze drum, 1.52
metres in diameter and one tonne in weight, designed in the traditional
northern Ngoc Lu style, and the largest curved bronze painting. — VNS
Does Indonesia have policies to
preserve the gong cultures?
The Government has established some high schools and
universities to teach young generations about the gong culture. As you have seen
at our presentation at the festival, there are two dancers. They are from our
country’s university of art. They not only can dance but play the musical
instruments and sing.
Gongs are part of our culture and life, so we are not afraid the
culture will disappear. No house in Indonesia has a gong but every community has
Every year, we also have a gong festival in our country. For 20
years, we have held an annual gong festival in Bali. This is one of the ways to
preserve our gong cultures. In the US, there are 300 groups of Americans who
play Indonesian gongs. Nowadays, there are some universities in the US, Europe,
Australia, Japan that teach Indonesian gongs, like University of Michigan or
Australian National University.
The Vietnamese Government is trying
its best to preserve gong culture. Do you do the same?
What we have seen last night is the great effort of Viet Nam’s
Government and Gia Lai Province to keep the culture. In our case, we encourage
more people to learn and play gongs. In our country, the gong is played at
hotels and resorts to introduce tourists about our culture.
We should not buy and provide gongs for everybody and ask them
to play it. The most important thing is how to make them passionate about the
culture, so they themselves will then buy and keep it. In our country, many
people play gongs but none of them are donated by the Government.
In our country, the old gongs more than 50 years old are banned
for playing. Every year, we give awards to people of our ethnic groups who have
great contributions in preserving gong cultures. The annual festival is one of
our ways to monitor how the cultures are preserved in their villages. — VNS