Publication Details

Hayes, J. "Drumming the Future: Vietnamese Drumming as a Bridge between Tradition and Popular Entertainment." Re-Routing Performance IFTR Conference 2013. Barcelona: institut del Teatre, Barcelona, 2013. 322-323.

Link to publisher version (URL)

Barcelona 2013


The fascination of Vietnamese with drums and drumming reaches back into the pre-historic when bronze drums (Dong Son), from the Red River Delta region of Vietnam’s north, were prized trading commodities throughout the Asian world of that time. Substantial archaeological evidence from the Dong Son culture (1st millennium BCE – 2nd century CE) indicates that the bronze drums, cast in one piece through the lost-wax technique and often weighing two hundred kilograms or more were venerated possessions used as regalia, burial objects and musical instruments for ceremonies and festivals. Now in the twenty-first century the Dong Son and other historically renowned drum types have become symbols for Vietnam’s emergence into an international cultural and economic arena. Three Vietnamese international events illustrate the emblematic use of traditional drumming as a nationalistic symbol of modern Vietnam: The Third Asian Indoor Games held in Hanoi in 2009 opened with a drumming spectacle using battle drums; The Jubilee celebrations of the Vietnamese Catholic Church in 2010, drew delegates from across the Catholic world with the opening in the north in the Ha Nam province beginning with an immense traditional drumming performance within its religious setting; The 2012 Hue International Arts Festival incorporated ‘Resounding the Vietnamese Spirit’, a specific drums and percussion festival with performances using Binh Dinh war drums, royal drums from Hue, Dong Son drums, and Tay Son battle drums. In particular, Hue’s ‘Resounding the Vietnamese Spirit’ was designed to attract Vietnamese youth to the popular possibilities of traditional drumming. The hallmark of the move to drumming as popular entertainment, extending from the use of drumming in the traditional lion dance performances is the emergence of small, youth drumming groups who perform in the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for shop openings and local cultural events.