Muong People

With about 800,000 inhabitants, Muong ethnic group occupies 1.3% of the Vietnamese population. The Muong people's residential sphere set up an arc between the Vietnamese from Vinh Phu to west of HoaBinh, then to midlands of Nghe An and Thanh Hoa. They belong to Viet-Muong linguistic group, but their culture is closer to Thai ethnic group. They live on growing rice, breeding, forging. Their residential area houses Hoa Binh Culture of the neolithic era along with which rice-growing appeared over 8,000 years BC.


Khua Luong ("Beating the mortar" in the Muong dialect) is a game played with wooden instruments by the Muong ethnic group, who settled in northern Vietnam in the early days of the nation's history.

The instruments of this game consist simply of mortars and pestles, all made of wood. Mortars and pestles are very familiar items of use in the life of the Muong community. They are used to husk rice before it is cooked, or to crush lean meat to make "gio", "banh giay" and so on. Thus the sound of the pestle and mortar is very familiar to the Muong women. Gradually, it came to be used as a musical instrument producing familiar sounds and rhythms. Through generations, this musical instrument has known many refinements and finally was used as an instrument for a concert by both young people and the old people in the village. This musical instrument dates back many thousands of years and has been preserved to date as a precious tradition among the Muong ethnic group. It might have come into existence long before the Viet community knew how to melt copper to make bronze drums and bronze bells for musical instruments.

Nowadays, among the Muong community at Thuong Xuan, Thanh Hoa province, there exist many Khua luong teams each comprising six to eight young girls. They can play up to 12 traditional concerts reflecting the landscape and the atmosphere of the Ban Muong (Muong villages)as well as the feelings of the people there. The most typical of the concerts are those depicting "a wedding party in the village", a scene of " Welcoming Guests", of "Waiting for the Bride" and of the wedding ceremony itself. In the "Welcoming Guests" item, a merry atmosphere is created through the sounds of pestle and mortar as the people busy themselves with husking rice and making cake to entertain the guests. In the "Waiting for the Bride" concert, there reigns an atmosphere of impatient longing for the bride. In the "Wedding Party", the stately sounds help people to get rid of the noisy crowd and enter a world of quiet felicity as the bride and groom gather under the cosy roof of their new house. Besides the four main concerts, there are some others such as "Welcoming New Rice", the "Early Rains", "Hymn to the Genie of Thunder". It is hard to imagine the perfection of the sounds and music unless you attend one of the ceremonies where khua luong concerts are performed. The music leaves a deep impression on the audience and, at times, tugs at the heartstrings.-- VNS

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