Beautiful Vietnam
One man's passion to preserve the Mong 'panflute'
  • By May Huyen-Nguyen Duy | | March 19, 2012 08:36 AM
A man in a remote moutainous district in the central Nghe An Province has devoted a great deal of time and effort towards preserving the Mong panflute.

Va Ba Dua is known one of the few proficient players in modern times 

Va Ba Dua, of Huoi Co Village, Tuong Duong District, has spent the last 15 years playing, teaching and even making the Mong khen (a version of the panflute), with hopes to preserve the customs of the ethnic minority's musical traditions.

 “I started learning playing the khen since I was 13. I learned from my father. After that it grew from a hobby into a love. People in surrounding villages have also taught me and added to my interest in the instrument,” he said.

Dua remembers when he joined the army at the age of 18. “Living far away from my village, the thing I missed most was the sound of the khen. I always kept one on the bedside table, and would play for friends every time i had the chance.”

And after leaving the army, Dua continued to devote his time to studying the instrument. And now he is one of just a few people in Nghe An Province who could honestly be called proficient.

According to one villager, Va Ba Chu, Dua's passion for this tradition has benefited his neighbours. He has taught children and others willing to learn in the area.

“I am very proud of him,” Chu says. “I would like authorities to recognise his contributions to preserving this musical tradition. Without his efforts, many young people would know little to nothing about it."

Aside from playing and teaching, he has also studied the craft of making the instrument.

“There are many steps involved with making the khen,” he says. “First you have to choose the best bamboo and po-mu trees and leave them to dry. Then we use very simple tools, knives, to cut and shape the wood into the different parts needed to create the instrument. Each part needs to be cut carefully in order to create the correct tones."

Dua says that the artist himself is more important than the actual instrument when it comes to playing music, adding that, when he teaches, his goal is to arouse the same passion that he has for the music in his students.

Va Ba Dua and his son playing khen in their home village. 

And after such devotion, Dua’s efforts have been recognised, if not officially, at least by the love and respect he receives from villagers, as well as by a number of awards from different competitions.

The latest award was in 2011 when Dua won the highest prize at an art festival of ethnic groups in Nghe An Province. Dua, his wife and children have also won a number of prizes for competitions around the country.

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