When Thai villages engage in community tourism, they often perform keng loong to welcome and entertain tourists.

Loóng means trough or long mortar in Thai language. People select a large, straight wooden log to create a loóng. Ha Van Xem of Na Phon commune explained, “A loong is a type of wood log that produces a resonant, echoing sound.”

A keng is a stick used to strike the two ends of the loong. Historically, people cultivated rice in terraced fields. The harvested rice was transported home and pounded in the loong. The loong essentially serves as an elongated mortar.

The loong plays a role in agricultural rituals and festivals of the Thai. While pounding rice, women frequently strike the edge of the trough or tap the pestles together to generate melodic sounds that ward off hardship. Over time, these rhythms transformed into the Keng loong dance, a notable folk tradition of the Thai in Mai Chau district.

Ha Thi Bich of Na Phon commune stated, “Keng loong originated from the act of pounding rice and straw. It is now performed at the New Rice ceremony and at festivals. We also play Keng loong during solar and lunar eclipse rituals and at funerals. During festive events, it is accompanied by drums and gongs. People position themselves along the loong and utilize bamboo or wood pestles to beat its edges.”

A musical ensemble consisting of drums, gongs, and pestles striking the loong accompanies people dancing and cheering. The number of participants depends on the length of the loong and the occasion.

Ha Thi Tam of Na Phon commune shared, “Keng loóng dancing typically involves eight individuals, four on each side of the loong. The dance symbolizes a wish for a bountiful harvest and prosperity. When the villagers welcome visitors, they perform folk dances and invite them to join in the keng loong and bamboo pole dances.”

There is a distinct keng loóng melody for each occasion, whether it be a New Rice ceremony, a cockfighting festival, a solar or lunar eclipse ritual, or a wedding. During weddings and New Year celebrations, the Thai also incorporate drums and gongs to create a more lively atmosphere.

Ha Thi Nhat, a Thai woman, remarked, “Keng loóng dancing holds a central place in Thai culture. When people dance, there is a sense of joy throughout the village. We perform the dance on all significant occasions – the Day of Great National Unity, New Rice Day, the New Year celebration, and festivals. In the past, we danced for tourists on weekends. However, with the growth of tourism, the village’s art troupe now performs daily. Tourists are particularly fond of the bamboo pole dance and the fan dance.”

“Traditionally, during lunar eclipses, elders would rouse the entire village to perform keng loong dancing in order to rescue the moon and restore its radiance, thus safeguarding and enriching the lives of the people,” Nhat explained.

In October of this year, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism officially recognized keng loóng as a national intangible cultural heritage.