Lisu pali fulu (Lahu naw jyylae; Akha la jae)

Lisu pali fulu

5 pipes of different sizes (the size determining the pitch), each containing a free reed and with one finger hole, set in a gourd. Each pipe makes a separate note when this hole is stopped so the instrument can play chords. Both ends of the tubes are open and the lower end protrudes 1 cm or so out of the gourd. These protruding ends are surrounded with beeswax so that they can be stopped by the thumb. The gourd is also sealed with beeswax to make it airtight. Players can both suck and blow (so circular breathing is not needed to keep the music flowing continuously) and bend or change notes with the thumb by stopping the hole at the bottom of each pipe. Instruments vary in size, a typical size being max pipe length 60 cms.– min pipe length 36cms.

Black Lisu player Wiang Haeng

tuned to an anhemitonic pentatonic scale and uses simple drone polyphony. After the tseubeu it is the most common Lisu instrument and is also ubiquitous among the Red and Black Lahu.  It is most often used to accompany dancing, usually solo but also in loose combination with tseubeu or other pali fulu players. The Red Lahu play it to accompany a singer and the Akha use it in ensembles along with percussion to accompany a chorus.

Dance music is rhythmic, the deep pipe sounds throughout the whole tune, and the melody part is played on the other four pipes. Occasionally a tone is sustained and a chord of 3 of more notes made. There are around 30 different  dancing ‘tunes’ in the pali fulu repertoire. Courting music is slower with a free rhythm and rich harmonies.

Akha la jae player Kengtung

The Akha instrument I have ( la jae) is tuned to ADEF#A. When the bottom hole of each pipe is stopped with the thumb the notes are GBDEG (ie the notes are lowered by one tone except for the D pipe which Is lowered two tones).

Red Lahu naw jyylae player

The five pipes of the small Lahu reed organ (naw) I have are tuned DbEbAbFAb. When the bottom hole of each pipe is stopped with the thumb the notes are then BbDF#EG. The three small reed organs of the Lahu, Lisu and Akha can be used interchangeably. The fingering is the same in the three groups:

la jae player Chiang Rai

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