Xeng Roger Thao
White Hmong qeej
The qeej, a free-reed multiple pipe bamboo instrument, is the most important instrument in White Hmong funeral rituals. The sounds of the qeej replicate the Hmong language, narrating the story of the journey back to the ancestors and the subsequent journey to rebirth. Ritual movements accompany the music, including swinging and circular motions. Xeng Roger Thao, a master qeej player, regularly performs at funerals, a service that is essential to his community. Roger teaches qeej to youth in Long Beach as part of the Hmong Association of Long Beach’s Qeej not Gangs program.
In 2005, Roger was a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program with apprentice Wang L. Xiong. During their apprenticeship, Roger continued to teach Wang the White Hmong funeral repertoire, which is played for three days and three nights. They focused on “the song of the horse and the ride to the ancestors,” which includes music and movement.