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Name: Pattala.
Type: Idiophones > Percussion > Xylophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#:
Country: Myanmar.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The Pattala [in Burmese: ပတ္တလား in IPA: Burmese pronunciation: [pattəlá] in Karen: paw ku[1]; in Mon: ဗာတ် ကလာ; is a Burmese xylophone, consisting of 24 bamboo bars [called ywet / ရွက် or asan အဆံ] suspended over a boat-shaped resonating chamber. It is played with two padded mallets.

The pattala is tuned similar to the diatonic scale. The earliest historical mention of the pattala is in the Kalyani Inscriptions and dates to CE 1479. The pattala is similar to other mainland Southeast Asian instruments, including the ranat ek and the Cambodian roneat ek.

A Pattala being played – Myanmar 19th Century

In pre-colonial Burma, the pattala was used in royal court music. In fact, when the piano was first introduced to the Burmese court in the late 1800s. It was tuned to the scale of the pattala.

In modern days, classical Burmese chamber music is accompanied by either the pattala or the saung gauk [the Burmese harp], both of which are capable of performing a harmonic countermelody. The pattala is also a key instrument in the Burmese ensemble orchestra, the hsaing waing. The pattala is also prominently featured in Burmese drama, anyeint.

Construction: The bamboo slats are typically made from the wood of giant bamboo [Dendrocalamus giganteus], which is durable and produces a stable sound. Slats are occasionally made from brass or iron. The mallets are made from hardwoods such as teak, padauk, black cutch, yindaik, or pyinkado. The resonance box is made from teak and decorated with inlaid glass or gold leaf.

Citations: Bibliography: Cooler, Richard M. 1995. The Karen Bronze Drums of Burma. BRILL. p. 29. ISBN 9789004099333 ; 簡約雍容狂野. 國立傳統藝術中心. 2006. pp. 112–113. ISBN 9789860059182 ; Description of the Burmese Empire. Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. 1833. pp. 128 ; Parakilas, James; E. Douglas Bomberger 2002. Piano Roles: A New History of the Piano. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300093063. Rice, Timothy 2011. Ethnomusicological Encounters with Music and Musicians. Ashgate Publishing. p. 185. ISBN 9781409434023. Brandon, James R. 2009. Theatre in Southeast Asia. Harvard University Press. p. 127. ISBN 9780674028746 ; Websites:


Name: Bawu.
Types: Aerophones > Reeds > Free > Pipes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#:
Specimen: Three in Collection.
Area: Yunnan Province.
Country: China & Vietnam.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The bawu [simplified Chinese: 巴乌; traditional Chinese: 巴烏; pinyin: bāwū] is a free reed single pipe aerophone of the Miao Hmong], Dai, Yi, Hani and other minority cultures in Yunnan province and South Western China. The name Bawu is a Chinese name believed to be borrowed from Miao language; local names include bi [Dai], meiba [Hani] and jifeili [Yi]. The Thai pī saw is a related instrument. A similar instrument is found in Vietnam.

Construction: The bawu is constructed from a length of bamboo tube about 30 cm or longer. It is closed at the blowing end by a natural node, open at the bottom. Near the closed end a small rectangular opening is carved through the side of the bamboo and a free reed of bamboo or bronze secured over the opening.


Name: Arababu.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lutes > Spike > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Country: Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: A bowed upright spike lute, it is called an “arababu” or “rababo” in Bolaang Mongondow in North Sulawesi. As alababu in Gorontalo ; as arababoe in Halmahera and as erbabi in Buru and elsewhere

Construction: Its resonator is half a coconut shell, usually covered with a membrane of buffalo bladder as a sound-table. A slender bamboo neck passes through the shell and meets the proximal end of the instrument’s wooden foot. It has a single string of vegetable fibre or cotton. The bamboo bow has resined ‘hair’ of fibre from the sheath of sugar palm leaves.

Citations: Bibliography: Margaret J. Kartomi, revised by Mayco A. Santaella ; Websites: Oxford Music Online / arababu ;


Name: Bhusayah.
Type: Idiophones > Percussion > Metallaphones > Cymbals.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#:
Culture: Newari.
Area: Kathmandu valley.
Country: Nepal.

Description: The bhusayah are cymbals that are played by the Newari people in Nepal. In the Kathmandu valley the term designates a category of large-bossed cymbals made in three sizes. The largest of the bhusayah is is mainly users in the instrument ensemble it is called the dhime baja.

Citations: Bibliography: S. Wiehler-Schneider and H. Wiehler: ‘A Classification of the Traditional Musical Instruments of the Nevars ; Websites: Grove Music / Bhusayah article ;


Name: Rababa.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lyres > Bowl.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.2
Country: Eritrea.
Region: Africa.

Description: The rababa is a bowl lyre with five or occasionally six strings of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. The instrument is also known in Congo DRC. [former Zaire] and Uganda as rababah or rapapa. This bowl lyre may have a bridge or without a bridge. And very small sound holes recalling those of the Ethiopian krar but sometimes with eight strings, no bridge and a single sound hole.

It is played by the Bari people of Congo DRC. The same instrument is called “tum” by the Bari who live in neighbouring Sudan. This supports the belief the rababa, tum and tanbura are one and the same instrument. At Omdurman [Sudan] the six-string rababa lyre turns out, what is to be called “tambura worship”.

The rababa is used in songs that sing praise the cattle among the pastoral people like the Beni Amer of Sudan or Eritrea. It is linked with the five-stringed goala lyre of the Hamar people in South Ethiopia. It is also played for secular repertoire, including entertainment and serenades.

Construction: The rababa is akin to the tambura in its construction. Although it is much smaller in size. It has a hemispherical sound box, that is covered with cow or antelope hide or in Congo DRC. lizard skin. Two extended arms are fixed to the hemispherical sound box. The animal hide or skin is applied after. A cross-bar supports the strings intact and keeping them in tension when tuned.

Citations: Bibliography: Laurenty, C 121: Wachsmann TCU, 405 ; E. Chantre: Recherches anthropologiques en Egypt Lyons, 1904, 236 ; E. Littman: Publications of the Princeton Expedition to Abyssinia Leiden, 1910 , 197 ; S. Chauvet: Musique Négre Paris, 1929 ; W. T. Clark: Manners, Customs and Beliefs of the Northern Bega, Sudan Notes and Records, xx/I 1938, 25 ; A. Paul: Notes on the Beni Amer, Sudan Notes and Records, xxxi 1950, 239 ; S. Zendovsky: Zar and tambura as practiced by the women of Omdurman, Sudan Notes and Records, xxx/I 1950, 65 ;


Name: Beganna.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lyres > Box.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.2
Country: Eritrea & Ethiopia.
Region: Africa.

Description: The beganna [in Amharic: በገና begena] or bèguèna is an Eritrean or Ethiopian stringed instrument that is a plucked box lyre. Having ten strings. Oral tradition identifies the the instrument as the Kinnor of Ancient Israel. It was played by King David to soothe King Saul’s nerves and heal him of insomnia.

It was later introduced to Ethiopia by King Menelik I. Its actual origin remains in doubt, though local manuscripts depict the instrument at the beginning of the 15th century [Kimberlin 1978: 13].

Playing Techniques: The begena may also be played using a technique and system called “girf”, wherein a plectrum made of horn or wood is used to pluck the ten strings of the begena. Megabe Sebhat Alemu Aga plays begena both by using his fingertips and girf.

The begena is characterized by a very specific buzzing sound, due to U-shaped leather pieces placed between each string and the bridge. The thong for each string is adjusted up or down along the bridge so that the string, when plucked, repeatedly vibrates against the edge of the bridge.

Usage: Due to the instruments relatively intimate and sacred role in society. The begana is not a common musical instrument to find. Meditation and prayer are very private, personal endeavours, and hearsay suggests that the instrument is played by very few and is a dying art. However, in 1972, the Yared Music School in Addis Ababa began formal instruction in the begena. Since 2004, evening courses are organized and the begena is still played.

Construction: The begena has a total of 10 individual gut strings stretched from the box [body] to where the friction tuning rings are located. The rings are tied together from animal hide. A bridge is underneath the strings and body of the instrument. This bridge is of a particular design allowing for the strings to buzz, when they are played.

Citations: Bibliography: Cynthia Tse Kimberlin, “The Bägänä of Ethiopia.” Ethiopianist Notes 2 [2], 1978, 15-32 ; Stéphanie Weisser. “Music and Emotion. The Ethiopian Lyre Bagana”. Musicae Scientiae 16 [1], March 2012, 3-18 – Discography; Alemu Aga, The Harp of King David. Ethiopiques Vol. 11, 1994. “Éthiopie, les chants de bagana / Ethiopia, bagana songs.” Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire [Ethnographic Museum of Geneva, Switzerland] LXXVIII / VDE 1206, 2006 ; Alemu Aga, Seyoum Mengistu, Admassu Fikre, Tafesse Tesfaye. The Begenna of Elders. The Harp of David in Ethiopia. Laika-Records, 2009 Websites:


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.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: