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Artists make musical instruments from coconut trees

BEN TRE – Artisan Vo Van Ba, 81 years old, crafted hundreds of traditional folk instruments from coconut trunks to waste products such as shells, shells, and mo, which set a Vietnamese record.

At noon in mid-May, the small house in the middle of the garden of artisan Ba ​​Ba in Nhon Thanh commune, Ben Tre city hummed with music. Holding a guitar made from coconut wood, water hyacinth, buffalo horn and python skin, he said it took more than a month to complete this “unique” instrument.

“This is a ‘five-in-one’ instrument that includes cheesy, guitar, gourd, stork and a microphone to sing,” said Mr. Ba, and said that he only kept about 30 guitars to play for less sadness, the rest nearly 200. Other musical instruments have been donated, sold out.

Artists make musical instruments from coconut trees
Artist Vo Van Ba ​​with a collection of guitars made from coconut trees. Photo: Hoang Nam

His family has a musical tradition, his father is a musician of the local boi singing troupe. When he was young, outside of school hours, Mr. Ba followed his father and uncles to perform around the area. Due to the fact that there are artisans making traditional musical instruments near his house, Mr. Ba enjoys coming to play many times, so he goes home to tinker with and try bamboo and jackfruit instruments. Growing up, he was trained in electronics and radio, but then dropped out, participating in the resistance for 20 years. In the army, he was a musician on the stork and zither of Doan Van Cong in the Liberation of the province.

In 2011, a friend suggested that he make a folk orchestra out of coconut wood to promote the festival, and Mr. Ba accepted immediately because he could relive his childhood passion. However, when he started working, he encountered many difficulties because the coconut wood was hard, brittle, the nails were easily bent and cracked. Some difficult details such as the concave guitar keys cannot be chiseled, but must be filed to wear out slowly. After many failures, he decided to choose 60-70 year old coconut trunks, not eaten by termites, with an eye-catching honey red color instead of white due to being young or black due to being too old.

It took nearly a month for Mr. Ba to make the first pliers, but when he tried to play it, he discovered that the sound was too bad, not vibrating and resonating. The artist then devised a way to use locally available water-based wood to make the top, keeping only the coconut wood frame. To create richness for the orchestra, he also makes use of other materials such as shells, shells, and coconut shells.

Mr. Ba Ba performed an oversized stork from a coconut tree. Photo: Hoang Nam

The beautiful dried coconuts, he cut off the head, chiseled the shell, took out all the fibers, only keeping a thin layer close to the shell and then painted to prevent mold. The coconut shell is also thinned and polished to make the stork box. Mo coconut is shaped into boats to make the body of the gourd. On the fretboard, small dried coconuts are shaped into funny puffer fish.

After a year of tinkering, a set of ethnic musical instruments consisting of 10 types of instruments with 27 products made from coconut wood was performed for the first time by Mr. Ba and artisans at the 2012 Ben Tre Coconut Festival, delighting the audience. This instrument was also performed by him at the Southern Don Ca Tai Tu Festival in Bac Lieu and Binh Duong. The Vietnam Book of Records Center then established this as the first set of national musical instruments made of coconut material in Vietnam.

Good news spread far away, the small wooden workshop on the porch of Mr. Ba’s house was always bustling with the sound of saws and chisels due to many orders. Each instrument costs from a few million to several tens of millions of dong. Completion time depends on the type, as simple as the zither and stork it takes about 3-4 days, while the difficult type like the zither or the guitar with concave keys takes from a week to a month.

“Coconut wood can make almost all kinds of musical instruments such as paintings, pliers, storks, dippers, gourds, guitars, mandolins, violins,” Ba said and said that in the products he made, there was a stork. especially 2.5 m high, 1.1 m long body, 0.6 m diameter. Due to its heavy weight, the instrument has to be fitted with wheels for ease of movement.

Artist Ba Ba performs musical instruments from coconut trees. Video: Hoang Nam

According to artisan Vo Van Ba, in addition to satisfying his passion and having an extra income in old age, his crafting work is a way to pay tribute to coconut trees, a specialty of the land of Ben Tre. At the age of 81, his three children and grandchildren are not in the profession, he said he is ready to teach the profession for free to anyone with passion.

Mr. Nguyen Van Ban, Director of Ben Tre Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that the coconut musical instrument set by artisan Ba ​​Ba is highly appreciated by many professional researchers for its art and aesthetics. More than 100 musical instruments from coconut trees crafted by artisan Ba ​​Ba will be displayed at Ben Tre Museum on May 18.

In addition to the traditional educational meaning for the young generation, according to Mr. Ban, the collection of Ba’s guitars displayed at the museum is also one of the tourist highlights of Ben Tre, which is enjoyed by many international delegations. Some foreign singers have asked accompaniment artists to sing with coconut wood.

 ( According to vnexpress )

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