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Music in wedding ritual of Red Dao in Lao Cai province

For the Red Dao, a ceremonial music band is an important part of happy events such as wedding ceremonies. The cheerful sound of clarinets and drums expresses the joy of the bride, bridegroom, and their guests.

(Photo: giaoduc.net.vn)

A Dao wedding involves many steps. After a boy and girl inform their families of their intention to get married, the families have many family meetings. Each time clarinets and drums are played to greet and show respect for the others.

When the bridegroom takes the bride to his house, she waits for the right moment to enter the house. The ceremonial music band of each family plays to express their respect and warm greetings for the other family.

The musical band of the groom walks around the bridal delegates to draw an invisible string around them to bind them to the groom’s family for the party.

A Red Dao groom takes his wife to his house. (giaoduc.net.vn)

Later the musical band reserves its steps to untie the string for the bridal delegates, but not the bride. That means she will stay with the groom’s family forever. She then performs a ritual in front of the groom’s altar to become a member of his family.

Ly Phu Chiu of Sa Pa township said, “When the bride arrives in the yard, the groom’s musical band performs a greeting tune. After the welcome ceremony, they play a tune to get her and her family to stay for a feast. When the bridal delegates leave, the groom’s family gives them some gifts.”

After both families share a meal, the musical bands play to thank the guests. 

“When the party is over, the musical band comes to each table to thank the guests for coming to the happy event. We’re happy to have them here,” Chiu said.

At the right moment for the bride to enter the groom’s house, the musical bands walk around the altar while playing ritual tunes to tie the bride one more time. Clarinets and drums play from the beginning to the end of the wedding ceremony.

A wedding party of the Red Dao (giaoduc.net.vn)

After worshiping at the altar, the bride and groom are husband and wife. The musical band stops playing. The shaman reads a prayer to welcome the bride.

Shaman Thieu Tien Tho recites this prayer: “Ancestors, today we officially welcome a new member to our family. We offer you two cups of wine representing their love. Please witness their wedding ceremony.  They swear to love each other until the end of their lives. Regardless of hardship in life, they pledge to live with each other as the full cups of wine. We beg for your witness and acceptance.”

In the past, a Red Dao wedding used to last 3 days and nights. Now it has been simplified. But the musical band remains the soul of all happy and important events and music accompanies each wedding procedure. VOV5

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