Name: Hulusi.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Free > Gourds.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 412.13
Area: Yunnan Province, Shan State.
Country: China & Vietnam.

Description: The hulusi [In traditional Chinese: 葫蘆絲 ; in simplified Chinese: 葫芦丝 in pinyin: húlúsī] or “curcubit flute” It is a free reed aerophone that is built from a gourd having up to three pipes extending outwards. The hulusi is found in the what is the Golden Triangle Area including the Shan State of Myanmar and its neighbour Yunnan Province, China.

The hulusi played by a number of the minority ethnic groups and in particular among the Dai people, who call the instrument lamtao 筚朗叨 – the word “pi” means wood wind instruments and the word “lamtao” or “namtao” means gourd.

Etymology: The instrument’s name comes from the Chinese word “Hulu” meaning “gourd” and “si” meaning “silk” referring to the instruments smith tone. The instrument is called pi lamtao in Dai [Tai Nuaea] language of Delong and “pi namtao” in Lue language [Sipsong Panna], Kuhn language, Kengtung, Yuan Language in Northern Thailand, Lao Language and Thai Language.

Playing Techniques: The hulusi is played by holding it outwards from the musician either standing or sitting. The gourd functions as a “wind chest” or “cavity” to provide free flowing air to the brass reeds in each pipe.  Due to the small size of the cavity as created from the gourd and the pipes adjoining together. The restriction of air flow from the mouth piece to reeds allows for circular breathing.

Construction: Small Finger holes are pierced into the centre pipe and the left and right pipes on either side function as drones. The specimen in my collection is affixed with a plastic piece that is custom made to allow the pipes to fit the gourd and remain secure during playing.

It is not uncommon to find hulusi with drone pipes that have an a finger-hole allowing the drone to be stopped. Many hulusi often have only two functional drones and a third drone is ornamental. Keyed configurations of hulusi are now available, the approach is moddled from the clarinet or oboe. Thus increasing the range by several octaves.

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