Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

The Strange, The Familiar: Foreign Musical Instruments in Myanmar/Burma

Burmese xylophone

Burmese xylophone

At the core of Myanmar/Burmese traditional music is the Mahagita or “Great Music” – a collection of verses and memorized song forms passed through generations for the last three hundred years. The various genres of these songs form a pedagogic tool introducing techniques of embellishment, and arranging melodic patterns in improvised sections known as "Ti Kwe" or "Le' Son" (Becker). The musical lines tend to be monophonic with occasional supporting intervals (9ths, 4ths, 5ths predominant) at pivotal phrase points. Melodic phrases weave between lower and higher registers of the octave. As more western instruments were folded into a Myanmar/Burmese musical context, their Burmese properties were discovered and quickly developed.

Silent Movies and Home-Grown Accompaniments:
Cornets, Violins, Pianos, Banjos, Guitars, Trombones and More!

While we can only speculate on the approximate “arrival” points of western instruments into Myanmar/Burma, it is the “burmanization” of these instruments that we can hear on old recordings and imagine through anecdotal history that becomes a point of fascination for the unaccustomed listener.