On November 25, 2005, the Space of Gong Culture of Vietnam was officially recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. After the Hue Royal Music, Central Highlands Gongs are Vietnam’s second intangible cultural heritage honored as the world’s heritage. It affirms that Vietnam is a country with a long cultural tradition, many traditional arts that need to be preserved and promoted.
The Space of Gong Culture stretches across 5 provinces of Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Lam Dong and the owners of this unique culture are residents of the Central Highlands ethnic groups: Bana, Xe Dang, Mnong, Coho, Rom, Ede, Giarai … Gongs are intimately attached to the Central Highlands’ life, are the voice of human spirit, soul, to express joy and sadness in life, in their work and in their daily lives.
Gongs in the Central Highlands have a long history and cultural traditions. In terms of origins, some researchers believe that gongs are “descendants” of the rock group. Before the bronze culture, the ancients came to find stone instruments: stone gongs, stone gongs … bamboo, then in the Bronze Age, there were bronze gongs … From the beginning, gongs were beaten. up to celebrate the new rice, down to the field; expression of belief – a means of communication with the supernatural … the sound when humming deeply, when impulsing deep, blending with the sound of the stream, the wind and the sound of the human heart, living forever with the earth, heaven and people in the Central Highlands. All festivals in the year, from ear-blowing ceremony for babies to the ceremony of leaving the graves, water trough worshiping ceremony, new rice celebration, warehouse closing ceremony, buffalo-stabbing ceremony … or in a dry listening session … must have gongs. The sound of the gong is longer than the human life, the sound of gong is connecting generations.
According to the theory of the Central Highlands people, behind each gong, there is a god. The older the gong, the higher the power of the god. Gong is also a valuable asset, symbol of power and wealth. There was a time when a gong was worth two elephants or 20 buffaloes. On festivals, the image of circles of people dancing around the sacred fire, beside the pot of wine in the sound of gongs echoes the mountains and forests, creating a romantic and fanciful space in the Central Highlands. Gong thus contributes to creating the romantic and majestic poets and poems of the Central Highlands culture.
Existing in the majestic Central Highlands land for thousands of generations, the art of gongs here has developed to a high level. The Central Highlands gongs are very diverse and plentiful.
Currently, in most of the villages in the Central Highlands, there are teams of gongs to serve the people in community activities, in the summer festival. On Tet holiday, the familiar image ”next to the sacred fire, the circles of people passionately dancing and singing in the sound of gongs resounding in the mountains and forests ” appeared all over the villages. Folk artists perform gongs in harmony with each other, creating music pieces with rich rhythm and harmony, with their own nuances with numerous levels. Each ethnic group has its own gong songs to express the natural beauty, human aspirations … Giarai people have the songs of Juan, Trum … The Bana people have gong songs: Xa Trang, Sakapo, Atau, Toi … The sound of gongs is also a substance that attracts girls and boys into the exciting dances of the whole community during village festivals. This is the most prominent folklore activity in many ethnic groups in the Central Highlands.
In the ceremony to announce the Space of Gong Culture, which is an intangible cultural masterpiece of humanity, Mr. Koichiro Matsuura – General Director of UNESCO said: “I have been able to enjoy the very unique Vietnamese gong music and also see very unique musical instruments in the gong orchestra of the Central Highlands ethnic groups. This is a very special traditional culture of Vietnam, very wonderful and unique. The recognition of the title The Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity for the Space of Gong Culture is very worthy ”.