Publication Details

Hayes, J. (2014). Drumming the Future: Vietnamese drumming as a bridge between tradition and popular entertainment. Journal of Literature and Art Studies, 4 (7), 557-566.


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. Now in the 21st century the Dong Son and other historically renowned drum types have become symbols for Vietnam’s emergence into an international cultural and economic arena. This paper charts three Vietnamese international events that 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, opened in the north in the Ha Nam province 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. These displays of traditional drumming it is argued have popularised particular nationalistic styles of drumming amongst Vietnamese youth, extending from the use of drumming in lion dance performances to the emergence of small, youth drumming groups who perform in the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.