Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Music of the Hmong in the Northern Region of the Lao People's Democratic Republic

Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Music of the Hmong in the Northern Region of the Lao People's Democratic Republic

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purposes of this qualitative research were to investigate musical instruments, musical bands and lyrics of music among Hmong hill tribes in the northern region of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, to investigate the role of Hmong music in the northern region of the Lao People's Democratic Republic and to investigate musical preservation in the northern region of the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Results show that Hmong music in the Lao People's Democratic Republic has its own specific identity that has been handed down from generation to generation. The musical instruments contain their own identity and are produced from natural products. The instruments are believed harbor supernatural power. The musical instruments are divided into two categories: percussion and windpipes. Keng is the most important musical instrument for ritual ceremonies. Usually, Hmong musical bands are employed for ritual activities rather than recreation. Musical tunes are always played in continuous patterns for one round and repeated depending on the emotion of the musicians. The tone of musical tunes is comprised of short and long sounds. Musicians have their own freedom in creating different sounds in various musical tunes and their playing has no exact form. It depends on musicians to insert sounds or teach various playing techniques. As Hmong hill tribe people believe in spirits, their music plays an active role as a means to communicate with gods and the spirits of dead people. They believed that spirits are from the natural environment. So, Hmong hill tribe people believe that their music is a means to communicate with deceased people. This belief has made Hmong people adore their musical instruments and the musical instruments have never been changed. Musical instrument makers are native Hmong. Hmong music is still alive and active in various ritual activities as a means of preserving beliefs, culture and rites.

Keywords: music, Hmong people, Lao People's Democratic Republic, role, preservation

1. Introduction

Hmong or Hmoob communities have a long history of migration from central China in the Huang Ho or Yellow river valley down to Lanna (Culas, 1975). At present, some Hmong groups remain in southwest China, northern Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. In the 13th century, the Manchu dynasty was in power and tried to eradicate the Hmong people. The fierce fighting took place in various places and times such as Pang-Yoon in 1466, in Kwai-Jaow B.E. 1733-1735, Schuan and Kwai-Jao in 1763-1775 and in 1881. Each war caused great numbers of Hmong casualties, so they moved south through Yu-Nan and the Reol River in Tougin. However, they had to fight again with Yuan tribes and pulled back up to the hills and high plateaus in Sip-song Ju Thai and Sip-song Panna. Hmong people spent only a few decades migrating to various places such as northern Vietnam and Laos. Hmong experts indicate that Hmong people moved into Nong-Had town Chieng-Quang county of the Lao People's Democratic Republic from 1810-1820. Also some groups of Hmong migrated into Toong-Hai-Hin in Laos and Dien-Bien-Fu in Vietnam and settled. From their long history of migration, Hmong people carried on their deep and clear culture as their own cultural identity. They prefer to live in high mountains at an altitude of at least 4,000 feet above sea level. The Hmong people live at the highest level in the mountains compared to other hill tribes (Patagratch, 2005).

According to Hmong records, Hmong people have migrated continuously. They compare their way of living to dried leaves dependent on wind power. Various causes of migration are war, need for farming land and tribal conflict. Wherever they move, Hmong people continue their cultural identity. Hmong social norms are in family groups. Marriage is the means to tie close relationships. They keep their own culture, way of life, belief and customs very firmly with great individual identity (Chantawanitch & Pliensri, 2010). …

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