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A Mediator between the Material
and Spiritual Worlds

Phe Vo ceremonial music instruments
(southern tradition)
Canadian Museum of Civilization

Video Excerpt

  Phe Vo ceremonial music instruments


In several regions of Vietnam, religious rites are performed at funerals, and during celebrations in honour of guardian spirits or the spirits of the Earth or agriculture, to ensure that the souls of the deceased are purified or rest in peace. In this context, music acts as an intermediary between the living and the dead in ceremonies that pay tribute to the departed. At the same time, the divinities are thanked for their gifts.

This set of instruments consists of a pair of ceremonial drums, an hourglass-shaped drum, a percussion instrument made of buffalo horn, a small gong, two small cymbals and three oboes. It is also called the "oboe group". These instruments are heard at specific moments in the ceremonies: when the officiants burn incense, when people prostrate themselves before the coffin of the deceased or the altar of the spirits, during the ceremony in which wines or rice alcohol are offered, during processions and when the coffin is removed. On other occasions, they are played for entertainment. The ceremonial drum player takes the lead.