|Gia Lai hosts a ceremony on November 21, 2020, to mark 15 years since the gong cultural space was recognized as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The children’s gong team of Pleiku Roh in Pleiku city is gathering at the hamlet church to practice the gong melodies they will perform at the 2021 New Year’s ceremony.
The 17-member team was formed by Siu Thum who moved to Pleiku Roh in 2008. Siu Thum recalled that at the time the hamlet had just one elderly gong team. He opened a free class to teach gong playing to young people and children.
Now Pleiku Roh has 2 additional gong groups of teenagers and youths who perform at most village events.
“I started the class because young people spend too much time on the Internet and ignore national culture such as gongs. I find gong culture wonderful and want to inspire young people. Once they begin to understand gong culture, they embrace it passionately,” said Siu Thum.
|Village patriarch Siu Ren shows a rare gong.
Siu Ren, the patriarch of O hamlet, says the Jrai people consider a gong an important family asset. It’s a symbol of the family’s prosperity.
Most households in O hamlet want to own a set of gongs, says Siu Ren.
Pointing at a wall on which the gongs are hung, Ren said his family has 2 sets, one a valuable set the elderly play on special occasions.
He told VOV that he bought the expensive gong set after harvesting a bumper crop, adding, “I want my children to have it for important events like funerals, buffalo-sacrifice ceremonies, and the Po Thi ritual, also known as the tomb abandoning ceremony. I often remind them to preserve the tradition of keeping a set of gongs in the house and never sell them.”
Of the 5 Central Highlands provinces, Gia Lai has the most gongs. There are more than 5,600 sets of gongs in Gia Lai, 930 of which are considered rare.
Each year almost every district, town, and city in Gia Lai organizes gong performances and contests.
Nguyen Xuan Ha, head of Pleiku City’s Culture and Information section, says ethnic minority groups are encouraged to preserve their gong culture.
“Each year the municipal administration donates gongs to hamlets to help keep the tradition alive,” said Ha.
“The ethnic minority affairs section organizes gong performance training courses, taught by respected hamlet patriarchs, for the young generation.”
Since the Central Highlands gong cultural space was recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Gia Lai has stepped up organizing gong festivals and honoring gong artists.
Nguyen Duc Hoang, Deputy Director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said, “We held an International Gong Festival in 2009 and a Central Highlands Gong Festival in 2018. Central Highlands provinces are expected to incorporate gong classes into their school curricula.”
Gia Lai hopes to boost local tourism by including gong performances and festivals in its community tourism products.