A Thai legend says that a poor Thai man of the Lò clan could play the flute beautifully. Even with just a leaf, he could make charming melodies. The daughter of a rich family in the village fell in love with him. But her family opposed their love because they wanted their daughter to marry a rich man. The flute player was so sad he left the village. One day, he stopped by a river and sought comfort in his flute. He put together several bamboo flutes to make a panpipe. That was the original panpipe of many ethnic groups.
The panpipe has 14 bamboo flutes arranged in 2 groups from short to long. One end of the wooden sound box is covered with bee’s wax. The other end is for blowing.
Lo Van Chinh of Nghia Lo township said the panpipe is an important musical instrument for the Thai in Muong Lo. It looks simple but it incorporates the Thai’s knowledge of music and natural materials. The panpipe can help a man express his passion for a girl. It can also echo the murmuring of a brook or the rustling of leaves in the wind. The panpipe has tones that symbolize father and mother, yin and yang, and reproduction.
Artist Lo Van Bien of Nghia Lo township said “We play the panpipe at events such as house warming ceremonies and wedding ceremonies. We perform it to accompany dances, for example, the Xoe dance.”
Nghia Lo township constructed a huge panpipe 2 meters high and 5 meters wide for this year’s Muong Lo Culture and Tourism Week.
Hoang Thi Hong Hanh, Vice Chairwoman of the Nghia Lo township People’s Committee, said “The panpipe, the traditional musical instrument of the Thai, has not been widely promoted or preserved. So it was a highlight of this year’s festival.”
The giant Muong Lo panpipe requires 5 musicians to blow it. It is loud enough to accompany hundreds of dancers. It was listed in Vietnam’s Guinness Book in 2017.