Hmong organ

Hmong gheng

collection of Victoria Vorreiter

6 bamboo pipes set in a wooden wind chest with a long tapering neck ending in a mouth hole which is often covered by a removable stopper. This wooden section is made from two identical pieces of mahogany bound together with straps. The six bamboo tubes are variously curving or straight. Each has a single hole for fingering above the wind chest and a metal free reed over a hole in the pipe enclosed within the wind chest. For extra volume the lowest tube, the thickest and shortest one, often contains two or three reeds. The players are not able to use their thumb to change the notes. The gheng pipes are played horizontally and the overall length of the instrument varies from two to five feet, depending on the skill and the preference of the player.

Hmong musicians Luang Namtha

The qen is in a sense an icon for Hmong culture and plays a major part in several Hmong ceremonies including weddings, New Year celebrations and funerals when it guides the soul on its journey. It is an important means of communicating with the spirit world but may also be used for example to welcome a guest or for entertainment. The qen too translates words into music; as it can play several notes at once the messages it conveys are highly complex. . In much instrumental music the player is required to dance while laying or perform certain movements (not always so acrobatic) and many find it hard to play while staying still or sitting. It is a solo instrument or played in pairs without the accompaniment either of other musical instruments or singing, although it can be intermittently accompanied by drums at a funeral.

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