“Hat then” are religious epics of Long Poems, performed by the highland Tay and Nung minority groups. Those songs tell the story of the path to paradise to ask the Jade Emperor to settle troubles for the head of household.
“Hat then” performances are important ceremonial events, which unite the entire community.
Long Poems consist of several chapters with different content lengths. A show usually involves two or three groups of singers, plus musicians. The epics last for hours and are devided into short and long chapters, which are often repetitive. Anyone planning to sit through a “hat then” ritual had best get comfortable; the longest epic contains 35 chapters and 4,949 lines.
In the ceremony procession, not only must the artist carry out elaborate religious rituals, but also act as a general actor singing, playing music, dancing, and making gestures to demonstrate the meaning of the sentence he is singing. Sometimes the artist also performs other activities such as chewing cups and other things.
Music is the main element that completely penetrates the performance. Sometimes the music is accompanied with song, and at other moments it serves as a background for dance or connecting parts of a song.The main musical instruments in the “Then” performance is the “Tin Tau” (a traditional stringed musical instrument resembling a guitar) and a chain of shaking instruments. Sometimes the band has a bell present.
All people in the Tay Nung community, regardless of ages, sexes, and religions are fond of “Then” songs. Some groups such as the Kinh Mooing in the same region have also been incorporating this kind of art in their spiritual lives.