multiple bamboo mouth harps

Lahu athra, ayee, Lisu magu, also played by Kokang

Kokang mouth harps

Played either  in pairs (especially Lahu) or in threes (Kokang).  Sometimes three or more mouth harps may be played simultaneously by a Lisu or Lahu musician.

Lisu magu collection Victoria Vorreiter

Lahu mouth harps are most often played in pairs and are attached to each other by a common string that ends at a bamboo carrying case.  Instruments tuned a fifth apart (athra) were used for intimate conversations between young people, and taken up after the couple used the naw to get acquainted. Instruments tuned a fourth apart (ayee) 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 the male. They performed a musical code with each note corresponding to a spoken syllable but nowadays their language would be understood by very few listeners.

Black Lahu player Soppong


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