Folk singing is an important part of life for the K’ho. From birth a baby is comforted by his mother’s lullaby.
At the age of 15 or 16, young boys and girls attend call and response song sessions where they make friends by singing, playing music, and dancing together.
They perform at community events such as new rice ceremonies, house-warming ceremonies, and worship rituals. Older people sing to welcome guests to their house.
At family get-together, all family members gather around a wood fire and the adults sing to tell their children the stories of their group.
The K’ho sing about everyday things using familiar words. The lyrics are passed orally from generation to generation.
The songs strengthen family and community bonds, reinforce village rules and discipline and preserve the group’s traditional culture.
The K’ho use several kinds of musical instruments at rituals and festivals. The most typical are lithophones, gongs, Dong La gongs, drums, gourd panpipes, flutes, and 6-string instruments.
Each has a unique sound. Nguyen Van Meng collects K’ho musical instruments.
“The Dong La gong is the most important instrument of the K’ho. We play it at a wedding ceremony to congratulate the bride and groom. We also use it at a housewarming ceremony and the blessing of a new crop.”
Lithophones and gongs are popular musical instruments among ethnic minority groups. A gong set of the K’ho has 6 gongs.
Players stand in a semi circle, holding the gongs in their left hand and hitting them with their right hand.
Through many changes, the K’ho have preserved their music traditions. With state support, many K’ho people have been working to create a passion for folk music in young children.
Ha Van Dinh, a folklorist of the K’ho culture, said, “The administration has built cultural houses in hamlets and communes. The State has financed cultural houses to buy costumes and musical instruments for performances.”
Many K’ho families own ancient gong sets, drums, and gourd clarinets. They consider them precious assets that reflect their cultural identity.