Type: Jaw-Harps > Guimbards > Lamellaphones > Idiophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 121.222
Country: China & North East Thailand.
Region: Yunnan, China & Golden Triangle area.
Description: Ata are bamboo jaw-harps of the Lahu people who live in Southern China and North Eastern Thailand and Myanmar [Burma]. Ata were traditionally used for courting, in two different tunings.
Varieties: Instruments tuned a fifth apart were used for intimate conversations between young people, and taken up after the couple used the naw or hulusheng mouth organ to get acquainted.
Instruments tuned a fourth apart were used by older people to rekindle the feelings of youth, and for divorced or widowed people to attract a new mate. The higher pitched of the pair is considered the female instrument and the lower a male. Unfortunately these practices have disappeared and now these instruments are made primarily for tourists.
Playing Techniques: Ata are played in pairs by two people as these instruments are tuned apart from one another. Ata are performed a musical code with each note corresponding to a spoken syllable.
Construction: Ata are attached to each other by a common string that ends at a bamboo carrying case.
Citations: Randy Raine-Reusch @ asza.com [ata article]