Living close to nature, the Bana have made many musical instruments from available materials like stone, wood, bamboo, rattan, leaves and dried gourds. The hand-made musical instruments have unique shapes and sounds which distinguish Bana music from the music of other Central Highlands groups.
Hundreds of years ago the Bana created diverse kinds of musical instruments, the most typical of which are the Chinh Gong and drum.
The round, bronze gongs measure 20cm to 60cm in diameter. A set of Bana gongs usually has 3 large gongs with a raised boss or nipple in the center and 10 smaller gongs called “chieng”. The Bana use a wooden stick with one end padded with a piece of cloth to strike the gongs. The larger gongs produce a deeper sound, while the smaller chiengs produce a higher pitch. In a performance, the gongs are divided and played in groups.
Gong performance is the soul of the gong culture space of the Central Highlands, which was recognized by UNESCO as a world intangible cultural heritage.
The Bana have produced several kinds of musical instruments made from bamboo: the T’rung, the K’long Put, the Ding Jong, and the Dinh Hor as well as stringed instruments like the Ting Ning and the K’ni. Dao Minh Ngoc, a docent at the Dak Lak Ethnic Museum, told us: "The musical instruments are played at joyous events, festivals, and the duet performances of young men and women. Some musical instruments are only played at family get-togethers or community events when older people sing and tell young people about the origin of the instruments and how to make and play them."
The T’rung is one of the most popular musical instruments of the Bana. Bamboo tubes of graduated sizes are tied together by rattan strings. One end of the tubes is blocked while the other end is diagonally cut to produce different tones that sound like a murmuring brook, a crashing waterfalls or a wind blowing through bamboo trees. A Ngoh, a Bana man in Dak Lak, says: "We never play the T’rung inside the house. There we play the K’long Put. The original T’rung has 7 or 8 tubes, but the modern T’rung has many more tubes to play more melodies."
The Ting Ninh has a special design. It’s a long, hard bamboo tube with both ends blocked. The Ting Ninh has 10 to 18 waxed-silk strings. Some artisans enhance the instrument’s sound by attaching a dried gourd below.
Young Bana men usually play the Goong on dating nights, because it produces a warm, whispering sound.
Other interesting bamboo instruments are the Po-chet, a water instrument, and the Reng-reo, a windchime, which produce sounds when water runs or wind blows though them.
Visiting a Bana hamlet to attend their spring festivals provide the lucky tourist a fantastic opportunity to hear the unique sound of their musical instruments echoing in the immense mountain forest.