06:00 | 21/03/2021 Culture & Tourism
(VEN) - Those visiting the ancient town of Dong Van in Ha Giang Province on the Lunar New Year will hear the plaintive sounds of the Khen echoing over the mountains and forests along the Vietnam-China border emanating from the Mong Panpipe Festival.
The annual festival is aimed at preserving and promoting the unique traditional culture of the Mong people and attracting tourists to the region. One of its signature tunes is made by a Lao version of the bagpipes known as a Khen, a mouth organ whose pipes, usually made of bamboo, are connected with a small, hollowed-out hardwood reservoir into which air is blown.
The Mong people consider the Khen the most important instrument of their culture and religious life. At festivals or fairs, its sounds express the Mong men’s sentiments for the girls they love. It also expresses a sense of community, and nature, and is believed to enable contact with the world of the dead.
The Mong teach their boys to play the Khen, and as young men, these players perform in dance and music to show off their strength and skills.
Mong men who play the Khen and dance exceptionally well are honored by the villagers. At funeral ceremonies, the Khen talks to departed souls on behalf of the living. At a wedding party, the Khen conveys the parents’ messages to their daughter.
Despite societal changes, the Mong have preserved the Khen as the soul of their culture. Many Mong men continue to make Khen and transfer the techniques of making and performing Khen to the next generation.