Gongs and drums of the Co Tu

Gongs and drums are the most popular musical instruments of the Co Tu in Tay Giang district, Quang Nam province. They are used in community events.

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Co Tu men beat drums at a festival. 

The Co Tu prefer chamois skin to make the drum face as it is thin and can produce resounding sounds. They don’t use buffalo and cow skins as they are thicker. The drum barrel is made of firm wood.

Holes are made along its rim. The skin is then put on to cover the barrel face. The maker uses rattan cords to thread through the holes and pulls to stretch the drum face.

The big drums create dominant and resounding sounds, while the medium and small ones keep the rhythm.

Pnong Plenh in Lang commune said “Gongs and drums are the most important assets of the Co Tu. They beat gongs and drums to begin festivals, wedding, and funeral ceremonies.

In a procession, the gongs go first, which are followed by cymbals and drums. The drums go in set of 3: a big, a medium, and a small one.”

The Co Tu said the drum is the source of aspiration for dances. When the drums and gongs are beaten, Co Tu girls walk on the stage.

They are followed by men. If the dance has many people, women will be circled by men which means men protect women and girls. 

 
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The  first man beats the gong and other drumers follow him.

A Lang Tung in Lang commune says “Drums are dominant in a performance. There are 5 to 6 drum melodies. Gongs and cymbals keep the rhythm. Other musical instruments follow the drum sounds. The drummers are the most important in the festival.”

The Co Tu believe that drums and gongs have souls whose sounds call for bumper crop and good health. The sounds of drums and gongs are familiar in festivals, worship rituals, and ceremonies.

“In the past, there was no telephone. People live scatterly. The sounds of gongs and drums informed people of what were happening: a community meeting, a sick person, or a hunt. A drum call or three drum calls have their meaning,” A Lang Tung explained.

Gongs and drums are closely associated with the religious and cultural life of ethnic minority groups. They are valuable assets of the community and typical parts of their intangible culture heritages including singing, dancing, and festivals. VOV

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