|Mong artist Ma Khai So helps revive traditional pan-pipes.
Ma Khai So was born in Quan Ba district, Ha Giang province and grew up with the music of the pan-pipe. He played his first piece of music on the instrument when he was 15.
Now retired, Mr. So continues to play and study Mong pan-pipes. He said, “Legend has it that there were 7 brothers who could all play the flute beautifully. When their parents passed away, they played music to express their sorrow and became so preoccupied that none of them attended to the funeral details. So they tied their 7 bamboo flutes together for one person to play and called it a pan-pipe. Later, one of the brothers died and the pan-pipe lost one of its 7 tubes”.
Mr. So added that Mong people like playing and listening to the pan-pipe because the instrument embodies their history, family relations, and lifestyle. “The pan-pipes are played to accompany singing or played for call-and-response love duets, funerals, and buffalo and cow worshiping ceremonies known long ago, but developed its current form in the feudal era,” he said.
At the age of 89, Mr. So is still teaching around 100 young students to play the pan-pipe. He also trains people for the Mong cultural festival.
Vang Sao Hung of Quan Ba district is a student of Ma Khai So. He said, “I’m interested in the pan-pipe culture of the Mong people. I’m learning to play and preserve the musical instrument because it is so important to us. Mr. So is passionate and enthusiastic”.