We have been working with the Central Highlands Centre for Rural Development, a grassroots culture and development organisation based in the Central Highlands, to conduct research within villages and teach local music traditions to a boarding school for ethnic minority children in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum. The project is on-going and engaged 90 local master musicians in the research, and nine master musicians and 45 school children in the teaching and learning. 

Research Central Highlands music traditions

For six months between December 2018 and May 2019, anthropologists from the Central Highlands Centre for Rural Development conducted research in six out of 13 villages in Kon Tum province’s Kon Ray district that is home,to the Bahnar Jơ Long, a smaller branch of the Bahnar ethnic group found in Vietnam’s Central Highlands region. The research aimed to collect Ching music pieces as remembered by senior artisans still living in local communities. Another part of the research was to interview and identify artisans who can still perform rare Ching pieces, and those who can teach them to others. The most significant impact of this research and documentation project was to preserve the Gong Ching pieces, which are at risk of being lost and stimulate the continuing practice of these pieces to keep them alive within local communities, as a way of maintaining their unique cultural heritage and identity.  

Gong Ching culture book publication

As part of the research and documentation of Bahnar cultural heritage assets, our local partner the Central Highlands Centre for Rural Development has been working with local artisans, researchers, translators and scholars to compile a book about the Gong Ching culture of Bahnar people since March 2019. This research aims to show how important Gongs are to the culture of the Bahnar people. The book has been developed in an animation format by a local artist, with texts in three languages Bahnar, Vietnamese and English. The book was published in collaboration with the Ethnography Publishing House. Some 1,000 copies were made available. You can find the e-version of the book here. 

Teaching and learning of the Gong culture at school in Kon Ray

As a subsequent activity from the research and documentation of the Gong music traditions, three Gong Ching pieces were taught to students from the Kon Ray district boarding school for ethnic minority children during September to December 2019. Traditionally, Gong Ching is usually taught to boys. In the school environment, local artisans taught boys and girls. The three-month programme was attended by 45 students, 18 of whom were girls, and concluded with a school festival.