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The Space of Gong Culture in Dak Lak

Located at the heart of South Central Highlands at an average elevation of 400 – 800m above sea level, with an area of 13.125 km2, Dak Lak is home to a population of nearly 1.8 million people, including 47 ethnic groups.

Dak Lak is the cradle of culture in Central Highlands. When it comes to regional traditions, we usually think of aboriginal inhabitants living on sunny and windy plateau such as the Ede people, the Giarai people and the Mnong people. The Ede people is the largest ethnic group in Central Highlands with an estimated population of about 330,348 people settled in Cu M’gar, Krong Buk, M’drak, Lak, Krong Ana and Buon Ho in Buon Ma Thuot… There are also other immigrant ethnic groups such as the Xo Dang people, the Bahnar people, … (Northern Highlands); the Xtieng people, the Ma people, the K’ho people, … (Southern Highlands), and ethnic groups in Northern Vietnam such as: Tay, Nung, Dao, Thai, ….

Dak Lak is famous for coffee, rubber and festivals. Dak Lak impresses visitors with its dense forests, long rivers, charming lakes and spectacular waterfalls along with the Space of Gong Culture in Central Highlands – the masterpiece of oral and intangible cultural heritage of human race.

From generation to generation, the gong is of great importance to communities in Central Highland. The gong is closely associated with each stage of a lifespan. Gongs serve as musical instruments in rituals and festivals. Vietnamese and international researchers in fields of ethnology, history, music, archeology … have been to Dak Lak to learn about regional culture, affirmed that: “The space of gong culture in Dak Lak is unique”. Highlanders believe that when playing gong music, there is an encounter between the human and spirit worlds. That is why highlanders only play gongs in scared rituals and festivals. A cultural conservation programme in M’nong R’lam and M’lieng villages, Dak Lieng commune, Lak District planned to spend a budget of 6 billion VND to rebuild six longhouses and houses of culture. Besides, the programe offers 13 new gong sets, musical classes to teach how to use traditional instruments and beat the gongs and the formation of a traditional art group to protect the gong culture…

According to satistics in 2011, there were 2,307 gong sets, 3,855 solo gong players, 393 gong tuners, 635 musich teachers, 139 gong sheets; 1,270 bamboo instrument players, 2,608 longhouses, 220 river wharfs; 155 different rituals and festivals; 734 shamans, 568 artisans specialized in bamboo, wooden and stone musical instrument making…

Several major solutions include propagating awareness of executive committees of the party hierarchy from province to village levels and the public about their roles and responsibilities in preserving, promoting the gongs cultural heritage and enhancing the management of the preservation process. Besides, regularly organizing cultural activities, which involve gongs performances, during festivals and tourism activities; and working in collaboration with artists to teach younger generations about traditional music instruments…

With the aim of preserving and promoting special cultural heritage and intangible objects, in recent years, along with focuses on social – economic development, the Party and the government also pay due attention to the conservation and promotion of the space of gong culture in Dak Lak. Great efforts have been made to promote education, which later contributed to an incresing sense of responsibility towards members of the ethnic communities, as well as agencies and organizations in the preservation and conservation process of the cultural legacy of ethic minorities in Dak Lak – Central Highlands while acceralating industrialization and modernization of the country and international integration.

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