Vietnamese village keeps the Mid-Autumn Festival beat alive

By Ngoc Thanh   September 20, 2017 | 07:06 pm GMT+7

Handmade drums born in a village not far from Hanoi will be banging out across the country this October.

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If you want to experience the true spirit of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Ong Hao Village in Hung Yen Province to the south of Hanoi is just the place for you. In this modern world where people just "click" and "tap" for things to happen, villagers in Ong Hao use their strong, clever hands to drum the rhythm of the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls in early October this year.

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A man makes a circle to outline the body of a drum. Ong Hao is home to 1,300 residents but only the old artisans make the drums these days. Most young people have left for industrial parks or other jobs in the cities because making drums is not a good way to earn money.

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Nguyen Van Tu trims a piece of wood that is used to make the body of a drum with a shredder - the only step that involves machinery. Before they were invented, locals had to spend a lot of time and effort trimming the drums by hand.

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The drum's body will be painted and dried before being covered with a drumhead. These drums are mostly used in lion dancing, a specialty of the festival.

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Buffalo skin is used to make the drumheads. The skin is cut into equal pieces and bleached in lime water for five-seven days.

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Stretching the drumhead is the most difficult step that only experienced people can handle, and just a few people in Ong Hao Village are now qualified for the job. “We have to stretch the skin without tearing it,” said Vu Van Khoi.

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Khoi stretches the drumhead using his feet.

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La paints the finished drum. “Each drum costs VND25,000-VND30,000 (more than $1) depending on the size. My family sell tens of thousands of drums and earn around VND100 million in profit each year.”

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“Sometimes, one family can sell up to 50,000 drums per year. Drums from Ong Hao Village are sold across the country,” said Le Dinh Tuan, a local official. Vu Thi Thoan, a drum maker, said three quarters of their products are sold across the country, while the rest are reserved for local vendors.”

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Ong Hao villagers also make paper masks for the Mid-Autumn Festival.

 
 
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