Culture Beat

by Long Huynh & Mwila Kapunguyla

Music is used by cultures around the world as a means of expressing traditional values that the community lives by which have been handed down from generation to generation. This paper will look at similarities and differences in Vietnamese and Zambian culture. It will focus on traditional music and its function in society, such as to commemorate historical and personal events, entertainment, communication, and to tell stories of ancestors.

Music is a very important part of Zambian culture. It is included in almost every aspect of life, from birth to marriage, funerals and traditional ceremonies. Music is used to teach cultural values, tell stories, and entertain. The various instruments used include xylophones, animal horns, thumb pianos, banjos( which are small guitars often made from tins and radial tire wires), and drums which are the most widely used. The drums also known as Ngoma, are made from dead tree trunks covered by animal skin which is adjusted at various tensions to produce different sounds. Dance is a relevant part of musical displays; this is true for many other African countries. In Zambia acrobatics are rhythmically infused into dance and are most often performed by young men in rural areas to attract females when they are ready to marry.

Growing up, I (Mwila) was not interested in cultural music and often times avoided it because I thought it was primitive and irrelevant, so I would rather listen to Western music because it was always on television and more appealing to me. Now that I have been in the United States for five years, you would think that I would be closer Western music and have even less to do with my cultural music; the exact opposite happened. After observing how other people from various cultures embrace their own traditional customs, I re-evaluated myself and realized how rich my cultural music and tradition really is. I feel that being so far away has drawn me closer and made me more appreciative of my culture than I would have been if I was still at home.

Vietnamese music and instruments could be traced back over four million years ago. Music and the instruments used to produce them are a very important part of Vietnamese culture. Both music and instruments were used in many different ways. There were certain instruments used for festival dances, imperial dance, and ceremonial rituals. Most instruments that are used in Vietnam are of Chinese origin due to their close relationship. The Dan Bau is an instrument of Vietnamese origin. There is a string that passes over a wooden rectangle sharp instrument. At the end of the instrument, there is a stick that points up vertically. When it is pushed or pulled, it will produce all different type of pitches and tones. All different age groups listen to Vietnamese music. Usually, elders listen to old folk songs or plays because they grew up listening to them. Traditional Vietnamese instruments are used mostly in old folk songs or plays.

The younger generation typically listen to pop or R&B. The words used in Vietnamese songs are more like poetry rather than words people use daily. I (Long) listen to a broad range of music such as American, Vietnamese, Chinese, and instrumental from all different counties. But when I listen to Vietnamese music, I feel relaxed and calm.

The music and instruments used in Zambian and Vietnamese culture are very different from each other. They may produce different sounds, but both cultures use music for ceremonies and entertainment purposes. Every culture has its own histories, language, traditions, and music, but they all use music in the same way.


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One Response to “Culture Beat”

  1. P. Doyle Says:

    Music really is the universal language. It is also a way for people to carry their culture with them no matter where they live.

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