Mon Music of Burma
The rarely recorded traditional music of the Mon people is vanishing and endangered, highly developed, and barely known even to Asian traditional music connoisseurs. Historically the Mon were a dominant, highly cultured, and influential people in Burma more than a thousand years ago. There are several instruments peculiar to the Mon. Most recognizable is the Kyam (crocodile zither), a 3-string long zither with frets that is shaped like a crocodile. Another is the Batt Kine, a row of 14 or so pitched gongs that is upturned at both ends like a crescent. Also, there is the Mon violin, a 3-string fiddle with a western-like body played upright. This is incredible music with an unique character! Recorded in Yangon, Burma by noted musicologist Rick Heizman, the Nai Htaw Paing Ensemble are recognized as masters of traditional Mon music. There is currently an effort by concerned Mon people to revive and preserve Mon culture, language, and identity, and this recording will help further this effort. INSTRUMENTATION: Kyam - The kyam is perhaps the most distinctive Mon instrument. It is often referred as the crocodile zither, and in Burmese language it is called migyaung, mi kyaung or mijaun. A 3-string, long, fretted zither, the body is carved into a crocodile shape. Bat Kine - Another uniquely Mon instrument is the row of gongs known as the Bat Kine. Rather than the circular set of tuned gongs used in Burmese, Thai, Cambodian, and Laotian music, the Bat Kine is shaped like a quarter full moon, upturned steeply on both ends. Pone Pon - Underpinning most Mon (and Burmese) music is a small set of drums played by one player. This set is known as the Hta Bone Pone Pon. It has 4 small drums, a medium drum, and a large drum. Graw - This 'Upright Viola' is an old and rare Mon traditional instrument. It has a western-looking body, but is strung with only 3 strings. Before the British colonizers came there were some traditional 2 or 3 string fiddle instruments, afterwards musicians copied the body stylings of the western violin. Battala - 23-key bamboo xylophone. The keys are soaked for up to three years to elicit the best timbre. Kha dae-Kha bart - In almost all Mon and Burmese music one hears the small cymbals and the wood clacker that serve a time-keeping function. Khanwe - a double reed oboe-like instrument. Talutt - A bamboo flute of various sizes and types of bamboo. BIO OF NAI HTAW PAING: The leader of this ensemble, he currently serves as an assistant lecturer at Yangon Cultural University. He Started studying Mon traditional musical instruments, singing, and dance from his father, Nai Khin Maung Gyi, in 1965. Regularly performs on Mon National Days, Mon State Day, Union Day, and other important receptions. He occasionally teaches the new generation of musicians but has difficulty finding time given the economic situation of the profession. He would like more Mon nationals to be aware of both their own music, Myanmar traditional music and other world musics. He is passionate about rediscovering and preserving the endangered arts of the Mon culture. CREDITS: Produced in Burma and the United States by Rick Heizman Assistant producer in Burma: Ko Doo Recorded at Khin Sabe Oo Studios, Yangon, Burma. Recording engineers: Nanda Kyaw, Aung Zaw Moe, Nai Win Oo, Ye Soe Mixing Engineer: Henry Kaiser, Berkeley, California CD Design: Mark Frischman Photos by Rick Heizman.