The T’rung is a musical instrument that is common among the small ethnic groups in the Central Highlands of Vietnam; the Bahnar, Ede and Giarai to name just three. Travellers to Vietnam will enjoy the central part of the country where the distance between the coastline and the Laos borders provides huge variety in a relatively small area. Typical Vietnam tour packages move over land from north to south or in reverse.As a result, an increasing number of people are visiting the Central Highlands where they are enjoying meeting these small ethnic groups where life has changed little over the years.
T’rungs vary in size with the longer bamboo tubes providing the bass and the shorter ones the higher pitched notes. The tubes ate attached with string, a fairly simple construction but musically very effective. It is difficult to put an exact date on when the t’rung was first made but in years gone by, there was little in the way of entertainment, hence the popularity of music, song and dance.
They are thought to predate the drum though nothing can definitively be proved. They provide a melodious sound, especially when played with flute and pan-pipe. The result is the songs in the Central Highlands tend to be happy and pleasant to the ear.
Life is hard in the Highlands and after a hard day’s work, a pleasant tune is restful. People gather in the communal house around the fire, sing, dance and play instruments. Whenever there is a wedding, a festival or indeed any special event, the children will sing to the melody created by t’rungs and gongs.
Over the years, the t’rung has been improved. More and more tubes have been added, in multiple layers, allowing the instrument to play most intricate pieces if played by a skilful musician. The melodies include both the traditional tunes as well as ones written in more modern times.
It is an instrument that features in national bands and is applauded by audiences, home and abroad. It means that wherever you are on holiday in Vietnam, you may well hear the t’rung if you attend any traditional musical evening. It is certainly an experience to hear music played by the ethnic groups up in the Highlands, and if this is at all possible, accept the invitation. If you are thinking about presents for friends and family or indeed, are looking for souvenirs of your holiday, why not a t’rung?