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Exotism and Populism: Hopes and dangers
written by Ingo Stoevesandt

Raising interest: The K’ny
The “K’ny” is a very intersting, fascinating  instrument. Looking like a normal fiddle, it covers an idea which is as intelligent as it is simple:
This Monochord has a second wire attached to the chord. The Player takes it between his teeth while playing; this way he spreads the bowed chord.
While playing he changes the room of his mouth, speaking vowels like “eeh, aah". The resonance of the spoken vowel is changing the resonance of the sounding chord. 
The result is a “speaking violin”.

Of course this instrument is quite unique. And, of course it is used to ban viewers and listeners worldwide, as it is a magic and outstanding instrument. Otherwise it is often presented as an indigenous “Vietnamese” instrument, combined and set up with ensembles consisting of equally “original Vietnamese” instruments like the Goong or even the Khen, no matter of fact that it is an instrument which originally comes from the GioRai people from the central highlands, where it is only allowed to be played by men in the communal house and believed to be a voice of god.

If we also do face the fact that mostly the K’ny is presented as part of an ensemble, playing such “Vietnamese” standards as the Russian song  “Kalinka”, we strongly have to ask ourselves, if this is the way in which traditional habits should survive.

Even more the complete so-called “traditional” Vietnamese music is a good example for some questions about the actual and modern handling
of cultural traditions in Asia. It stands for the most important question for everyone who is engaged in the preservation of a cultural tradition: How do we survive?
Is it right, that instruments like the K’ny just simply survive because they are so “outstanding” that it is used as a good argument?  Or is this the only chance for an instrument like the K’ny to survive the next generations? Or is it even a chance to create so much interest in the K’ny that people and kids start learning again, and an old playing tradition comes back to life?

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