Tsa Nees -- Departure of the Deceased. Performed by Chai Lee, Qeej Instructor at Hmong Cultural Center. Videographer Mitch Lee.
This is technically the last song played at a traditional Hmong funeral. Back in previous generations, when people carried the deceased to the graveyard, the Qeej player would walk alongside and play this song, sometimes going under the manmade horse. In more modern times, this song is played on the last day at the funeral home as the coffin is led out to the hearse.
This qeej instrument song is performed as part of the traditional Hmong Funeral Ceremony and taught as part of the Qeej class curriculum at Hmong Cultural Center in Saint Paul, MN. The Qeej is a bamboo pipe instrument known worldwide as the primary cultural identifier for Hmong people practicing the traditional Hmong religion. It plays a pivotal role at Hmong funerals, as the sound of its chords are thought by Hmong to call the soul out of the body and into the afterworld. Many Hmong believe that a proper burial cannot occur without the playing of the Qeej instrument at a funeral ceremony.
This project has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Folk Arts grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, this activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.