single bamboo mouth harp

Akha ja eu (Lisu magu;  Palaung pasaguan; also played by Kachin)

Akha mouth harp

Plucking the frame causes the tongue, which is cut from the same piece of bamboo, to vibrate. Lisu instruments differ from those of the Akha in havnig a pointed spike rather than a square plucking tip and being made of thinner bamboo.

Traditionally, the Akha also use the ya yuu to speak to a lover. In one tune I recorded the player explained that he was telling his girl friend he’s lonely standing outside and getting bitten by mosquitoes. In this instance I had to lend the musician a mouth harp. There was a woman in the village who made them. But after trying all the instruments she had made (about a dozen) he declared them ‘unfit for purpose’. By chance I had in my pocket a mouth harp which I bought over 20 years ago in the Night Bazaar in Chiang Rai. As soon as he tried it his face lit up- ‘this is a real one’ he said and this is the one I recorded.

Akha ja eu player Chiang Rai

Akha player and maker, Chiang Rai

Lisu musician Yunan (photo Victoria Vorreiter)

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