Preservation of the ceremonial gongs in the Central Highlands is facing serious challenges because the culture is being lost, according to experts.

To preserve gong playing, it is important to protect the culture and to restore the ceremonial uses of the instrument, they said at a conference in Da Lat city, the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong on January 25.

The conference was held to review a project to preserve and restore the traditional heritage values of the gong in the provinces of Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Lam Dong.

Gong performances are closely tied to community cultural rituals and ceremonies of ethnic groups, with gong sounds mean to communicate with deities and gods.

The most serious concern expressed at the conference was that the space to perform gong has been reduced: ceremonies and festivals that used gong have disappeared and communal houses have been replaced with concrete buildings.

Gong clubs are learning the skills but the teachers are not aware of their responsibilities to preserve the instrument.

For ethnic groups, the gong is a musical instrument of sacred power and with every gong there is a god who gets more powerful as the gong gets older.

"God of gong" is the protector of the community so the gong was associated with all rites, such as funerals, buffalo sacrifices, crop rites, harvests, ceremonies to pray for the health of people and cattle, the inauguration of houses, ceremonies to see-off soldiers and the victory celebration.

Another problem is that the number of gong performers has decreased as young people become more interested in modern music than traditional gong culture.

Participants at the conference suggested an authorised body be formed to help revive and restore the traditional performing environment of gong and support and preserve festivals and ceremonies using gong.

Raising awareness and providing information about the need to preserve gong was also required. Authorities suggested it was important to teach gong at primary schools. The A Dok primary school in Dak Doa District, Gia Lai province is the first school in the province in 10 years to teach gong to students.

On November 25, 2005, in Paris, the space of gong culture in Central Highlands was recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity.-VNA