Ca Dong ethnic man collects musical instruments to preserve culture

December 17, 2022 - 10:00


Đinh Văn Siêng practises playing a gong. — VNA/VNS Photo Đinh Hương

QUẢNG NGÃI — A young Ca Dong ethnic man in the central province of Quảng Ngãi has built his own museum with a collection of musical instruments in a bid to preserve the traditions of his people's culture.

Recognising that the traditional cultural identity of the Ca Dong ethnic people is very rich and diverse but is facing the serious threats of fading away, Đinh Văn Siêng in Sơn Long Commune of Sơn Tây District has spent several years collecting musical instruments and other items.

“In 2010, when returning to my hometown after completing military service, I found that many musical instruments, working tools and artifacts that were associated with the Ca Dong people were being lost,” Siêng said.

“Many gongs and other traditional instruments that are the soul of the Ca Dong people were sold. In addition, most young people were just interested in modern music such as pop, rap and rock and turned away from ethnic music,” Siêng said.

Gongs are considered valuable assets of the Ca Dong ethnic minority. In the traditional festivals of the Ca Dong people, such as celebrating new rice, the buffalo stabbing festival, New Year celebration, and Giàng (Ethnic God) worshiping ceremony, the sound of gongs are indispensable.

Siêng said: “If this situation persists, the sound of gongs, traditional guitars, and the folk songs and poems of Ca Dong people will be gone.”

Since then, Siêng began to think about collecting traditional musical instruments with the desire to preserve a part of his people's culture.

After work, he travelled around villages, went to every house to encourage people to keep traditional musical instruments to pass on to the younger generation.

To those who intended to sell these precious instruments, he asked to buy them and keep at home.

So far, he has had a small museum with many traditional musical instruments and items of the Ca Dong people.

These musical instruments have been featured in gong festivals or ethnic musical instrument festivals organised by the district and the province.

With the desire to contribute to preserving and promoting the beauty of the traditional culture of his people, Siêng also collects traditional items of the work and daily life of Ca Dong people, such as baskets, crossbows, fishing tools, betel nuts, copper pots, etc.

According to Siêng, he uses these items to decorate the museum and keep them for the younger generation.

“Knowing my intention, instead of selling the items, villagers gave me baskets, crossbows and copper pots with the hope that I would keep them for the younger generation,” Siêng said.

A Ca Dong ethnic minority wicker basket in Siêng's museum. — VNA/VNS Photo Đinh Hương

Siêng’s museum also become a venue for learning about gong performances by members of Sơn Long Commune’s Youth Union.

Currently, Siêng is building a display area for traditional artifacts of the Ca Dong people, combined with opening a cafeteria to gradually form a community tourist destination.

This facility is located in Ra Pân Village on East Trường Sơn Road.

Siêng said that the exhibition space will vividly reproduce the daily life, production and traditional beauty of the Ca Dong people in the mountainous district of Sơn Tây.

Đinh Thị Hành, deputy secretary of Sơn Long Commune’s Youth Union, said that the musical instruments and items of the Ca Dong people have dwindled in number.

Therefore, Siêng’s collection and preservation work is very helpful and important. However, there are not many people in the locality who know how to play gongs, so union members want the local government's support for artisans to teach them.

Sơn Tây District currently has more than 19,000 people, of which about 90 per cent are Ca Dong people.

According to preliminary statistics of the Department of Culture and Information, there are only about 50 people who know how to use ethnic musical instruments while only 40 households still keep musical instruments, and very few people know how to make ethnic musical instruments.

Lê Phương Nam, head of the Sơn Tây Culture and Information Department, said that the district is carrying out a project of preserving intangible culture.

Therefore, Siêng's collection of musical instruments and items of the Ca Dong people is very meaningful, said Nam.

In order to preserve and promote the cultural identity of the Ca Dong people, the department advised the district People's Committee to regularly organise festivals of gongs and folk songs and open gong clubs to help young people have venues for playing their musical instruments, he added. — VNS