Bamboo, a familiar symbol of Vietnamese people’s life and soul, has long been used to create distinctive musical instruments. Simple bamboo instruments are often played at family and communal events and festivals.
Emeritus Artist Nguyen Thi Hoa Dang, Vice Dean of the Traditional Music Department of the Vietnam National Academy of Music, said “Vietnam has soil and climate conditions favorable for growing bamboo. Bamboo’s physical structure is conducive to making musical instruments. Chinese or Philippine bamboo is thicker and has more closely spaced knots, so it produces lower, more opaque sounds. Vietnamese bamboo instruments produce purer, more echoing sounds. Bamboo musical instruments are a source of Vietnamese pride.”
There are 3 kinds of bamboo instruments: wind, string, and percussion. Musician Thao Giang, Director of the Vietnam Music Development Center, said “Flutes and pan-pipes are made of bamboo trunks. Bamboo leaves can also be used to create sound. Bells, drumsticks, and castanets are made of bamboo roots. The T’rung, Dinh Tut, and Ko Ni percussion instruments of the Central Highlanders and the two-string fiddle and 16-string zither are also made of bamboo. Bamboo musical instruments vary between ethnic groups. People’s creativity is boundless.”
Dr. Nguyen Thi Hoa Dang said “Vietnam’s bamboo musical instruments are popular, simple, and distinctive. Almost all the ethnic groups of Vietnam, including the Kinh, Hmong, Thai, Tay, Nung, Giarai, and Ede, possess bamboo instruments. The best known Vietnamese bamboo instruments are the T’rung and the monochord, which are played and loved in many other countries. Other lesser-known instruments are the Krong Put, Dinh Pa, and Ko Ni of the Central Highlands. Vietnamese bamboo musical instruments are handmade”.
Bamboo instruments are played at performances of Vietnamese traditional music, including Xoan singing, Ca Tru ceremonial singing, Quan Ho love duet singing, Hue Royal Court music, and amateur singing, which have all been recognized by UNESCO as intangible heritages of humanity.
Throughout Vietnam’s history, bamboo musical instruments have been echoing people’s dreams and aspirations and connecting the people of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups with each other and with the rest of the world.