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Gong groups appreciated by a new audience

Update: August, 08/2005 - 00:00

Gong groups appreciated by a new audience


Tin pan alley: The K’ho ethnic group’s cong chieng (gongs) are no longer played only in traditional festivals, but also in profitable performances for tourists. — VNA/VNS Trong Duc

The deep sound and melo-dies of traditional gongs are leaving an indelible impression on domestic tourists in the beautiful areas around the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) province of Lam Dong.

The K’ho ethnic group’s cong chieng (gongs) are no longer played only to commemorate good harvests, religious festivals or other special occasions like births, weddings or funerals.

Lam Dong Province now has many cong chieng performing groups. The idea of bringing cong chieng into tourism is new, and Lac Duong Town has the most groups, according to Nguyen Tanh from the provincial department of culture and information.

Most important was the preservation of the unique characteristics of Lam Dong cong chieng, Tanh said.

Five years ago, the Culture Family Club was established in Lat Commune with a view to preserving the cultural value of the cong chieng. The club stages performances and has done well at attracting many tourists who will pay good money to see and hear the artists.

Every weekend, tourists come to Lac Duong where countryside girls are always smiling and invite visitors to enjoy ruou can (wine drunk from a jar through pipes). Unique wildlife and scenery in the area give the mountainous area an intriguing feeling. Lat Commune was an increasingly popular destination for domestic tourists, said a tour guide in HCM City.

Cong chieng performances for tourists have provided a new opportunity for the poor in Lac Duong Town to earn money. There are now about ten cong chieng groups in the town, with more than 200 artists from the communes of Bon Dung and Bo No C preserving this musical tradition. Many now travel to other places to perform, such as Da Lat and HCM City.

Some cong chieng groups have invested in performance spaces or venues. The largest open air stage has about 300 seats. The traditional music groups have added contemporary instruments such as drum, electric guitar and keyboard.

"The tourists get bored if we perform traditional music with only cong chieng and folk songs," explained Krajan Ter, a group leader.

Each tourist pays around VND30,000 for ruou can, roast meat and a cong chieng performance, but sometimes this price is lower because of competition among the groups. Annually, the cong chieng groups receive about 700 tourist groups with over 30,000 guests. — VNS

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