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Reviewed by:
  • Anăk Č̛ư̛̛̕ Čhiăng: The Original People of Vietnam's Central Highlands
  • Lap M. Siu (bio) and Jeffrey P. Williams (bio)
Anăk Č̛ư̛̛̕ Čhiăng: The Original People of Vietnam's Central Highlands. Montagnard Culture Group—2280900028, 2006. One CD. 43 minutes. Produced by Kay Reibold with booklet containing lyrics, translations, and an introduction by Gerald C. Hickey.

"When I grew up in Vietnam, I never heard the word Montagnard or Dega. The first time I heard it [Montagnard] was here in the US when I came in 1996. In Vietnam, lots of younger generations do not even know the term Montagnard. I bet my dad knew the word Montagnard but he was afraid to tell me about it."

(Lap M. Siu, coauthor of this review)

We envisioned and performed this recording review as dialogic, a kind of collaborative recording review, but instead of "reading alongside" each other, we are "listening alongside"' each other (Lassiter 2005). This means that we are listening through two different filters and with two different experiential frames. The goal of bringing these together is to demonstrate a more richly layered interpretation of musical expression.

As Aubert (2007) points out clearly in The Music of the Other: New Challenges for Ethnomusicology in a Global Age, this CD focuses on the problem of identity. How is Montagnard-American identity expressed musically? In opposition to the transnational recording Bamboo on the Mountains, in which Khummu identity is the focus, in Anăk Č̛ư̛̛̕ Čhiăng: The Original People of Vietnam's Central Highlands, an identity that has not been fully realized is being developed and represented. This is due largely to the nature of the Montagnard community in the Carolinas. In the Carolinas, the Jarai, Ede, Bahnar, Koho, Mnong and a few other tribal groups coexist and are actively determining their socioeconomic, political, and cultural futures as Montagnard Americans. In Vietnam, each eth-nolinguistic group lived separately from the others, with only limited interactions between the various groups; and, so, Anăk Č̛ư̛̛̕ Čhiăng represents a musical and cultural expression of the genesis of Montagnard American identity. That newly found unity in America is, in part, the result of the experiences of the former FULRO (United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races) leaders who have pushed for all of the Montagnards to become united.

Anăk Č̛ư̛̛̕ Čhiăng: The Original People of Vietnam's Central Highlands consists of 12 tracks and is packaged with an attractive liner booklet of 44 pages, which [End Page 212] includes mostly color photographs. The photographs—of performers, places, and instruments—provide a visual representation of the Montagnard Diaspora. The introduction provided by Gerald Hickey is retrospective—describing what life used to be like in the Montagnard world. While it could be said that an introduction which addressed the cultural transformation from Montagnard to Montagnard American, and its expressions in the cultural and social lives of those living in the United States would be preferable, the Montagnard American view of the introduction is different. The introduction inscribes the feelings that the music evokes for Montagnard Americans—namely, longing for homelands, villages, and the ways of life back in the Central Highlands.

The opening track is a performance on the trưng—a traditional Jarai ideophone. Trưng is often seen as a cultural emblem of the Jarai people.

"When I was talking to Hip [Ksor] about trưng, I could hear the tone of his voice was changing. He [HK] started to sing unaccompanied, 'Ôh mơak biă mă laih anŭn hơmâo mơnuih pơ hơma.' 'Oh how happy it makes me to know that there is another person staying at his farm.'"

(Lap M. Siu)

The socioeconomic policies of the Vietnamese government during the 1980s rapidly changed the cultural component of Jarai horticultural practices. This change also impacted the role of the trưng in Jarai social life in the Central Highlands. In the Central Highlands, Jarai trưng had several local functions. Trưng functioned as a metacommunicative device to let other farmers know that you are staying in your fields and that they can come and visit you. The melodies of the trưng...


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