St. Paul’s First-Ever ‘Qeej Festival’ Highlights Hmong Musical Instrument – WCCO

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (WCCO) — The Qeej Festival in St. Paul on Sunday celebrated a musical instrument that is one of the most recognized symbols of the Hmong people.

The one-day showcase highlighted all aspects of the traditional woodwind instrument.

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“Eight different reeds to produce a sound. And it actually sounds a lot like the bagpipes,” said Koob Meej Lee, qeej instructor and emcee of the event.

The Hmong Cultural Center organized this unique event for the first time.

“It’s the first in the country,” said HCC executive director Txong Pao Lee.

The festival, held at the Landmark Center, also featured traditional Hmong dance. People from all over the country came together to preserve the Hmong culture.

(credit: CBS)

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“(From) Madison, Wisconsin, from California… It shows that in the Hmong community, we are actually so far apart, we are actually very close to each other and are still able to, you know, make the trip for us see,” says Koob Meej Lee.

The qeej is played during the Hmong New Year, funerals and weddings.

“It’s very important for young people to show that it’s not just played at funerals,” Txong Pao Lee said.

A musical heritage, maintained.

“A lot of traditions are kind of lost, and so by having this event to introduce qeej, to tell what qeej is, to show how it’s culturally relevant, and how we can even implement it in, you know, the Hmong American history is super important,” said Koob Meej Lee.

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The Hmong cultural center offers qeej lessons. Click here for more information.

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