© 2002-2011 P.Missin - Details

A SELECTIVE DISOGRAPHY OF ASIAN FREE REED INSTRUMENTS

A complete discography of Asian free reed instruments would be a major undertaking, so on this page I have listed just a few of my favorites. Please support these record companies by buying their product, to help make sure that they continue to make this music available.

Since originally putting this page together, many of these CDs have gone out of print. I have left their Amazon links intact, in the hopes that some of them may be available used at a fair price. For more information about the Amazon.com links on this page, please read this.


BALI

Bali - Gamelan & Kecak, Various Artists Recorded in Bali by David Lewiston (Elektra/Nonesuch 7559 79204-2)

The Indonesian tradition of gamelan music is famous for its complex interlocking parts played on tuned metallic percussion, with the occasional wind instrument taking the melodic lead. These classic field recording from the 1980s present a wonderful overview of gamelan, covering the full range of the music from parades and large orchestras, to smaller more intimate settings, including a duet by two genggong (the Balinese bamboo guimbarde) players. It is a wonderful introduction to the genre, but readers of this page may be most interested in the track Lagu Kodok (Frog Song), featuring the rarely heard enggung - probably the simplest of all free reed instruments. Here several enggung players imitate the croaking of frogs in a raucous interplay, accompanied by percussion and a strangely catchy melody played on an unidentified wind instrument.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Music in Bali, Various Artists (King Records KICC 5127)

Those of you who simply can't get enough enggung and genggong might want to check out this CD, Although not quite as stunning as the David Lewiston recordings, this have a nice selection of gamelan, Balinese choirs and more croaking enggung players!     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


BANGLADESH

Ritual Mouth Organs of the Murung, (Inedit W260084)

"Mesmerising" would be an understatement. The haunting repetitive music of the plung mouth organs played by the Murung have invited comparisons with Brain Eno, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and the like, but really this beautiful music is quite unique. The Murung are a tribe from the border of Bangladesh and Burma, but their musical tradition seems to have little in common with most Indian or Bangladeshi music. The featured instrument on this CD is the plung, a fairly typical Asian mouth organ consisting of a gourd into which three to five bamboo pipes with idioglottal free reeds have been inserted - but the playing is far from typical. The first track of the CD is a 21 minute performance by a group of eleven plung players whose instruments cover a total range of more than four octaves, playing a piece which is one simple phrase repeated over and over with small variations, but with amazing depth of tonal expression. The whole group breath together almost as one entity, drawing the listener in so that the 21 minutes seem to be over all too quickly. The second track weighs in a little under 15 minutes and consists of a single mouth organ with nine pipes, called the rina plung, producing waves of sound to accompany a half sung, half spoken piece. Track three brings back the plung orchestra, this time playing a ten minute piece to accompany the ritual sacrifice of a cow. The sound textures would call to mind electronic organs or synthesisers if it weren't for the synchronised breathing of the ensemble giving the whole thing such an organic feel. Truly stunning music. The CD comes with a nicely illustrated booklet in both French and English giving background on the Murung, some detailed information on the construction of the plung and notes on the music.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


CHINA

Yunnan Instrumental Music, Chinese Ensemble of Yunnan Song & Dance Troupe (Hugo HRP7206-2)

Some traditional tunes from the Yunnan region of China are interpreted by professional musicians playing instruments common to that area. Compared with some of the field recordings listed on this page, this CD will seem rather polished, however, the music is no less beautiful. Each track features a different solo instrument and those of interest to free reed fans include the hulusheng (a gourd mouth organ), bawu (a side-blown free reed pipe), hulusi (consisting of a free reed pipe with a gourd windchest, with two smaller pipes to provide a drone accompaniment) and a double hulusi (with a pair of melody pipes capable of playing two part harmony). Tasteful arrangements of lovely folk melodies.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Sheng, Xu Chaoming (Cinq Planètes 023922)

Associate Professor of the Shanghai Conservatory, Xu Chaoming is respected as a sheng player, as technical innovator of his instrument and as a mentor to younger players such as Wu Wei. This CD shows off his prowess and musicality, with a command of both traditional and modern techniques - note bending, dazzling chromatic runs, fluttering chords and full polyphony, at times making his sheng sound like a whole consort of instruments. The music itself similarly ranges from time-honoured pieces to modern compositions, played on both a 37 pipe sheng and an "improved" lusheng. Notes on each track are provided in both French and English.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Sheng: Organ for the Mouth, Wu Wei (Melisma MELI 3048-2)

A student of Xu Chaoming, Wu Wei shows his teacher's influence most strongly in the opening piece "Phoenix Spreads its Wings" (co-incidentally also the opening track to Xu Chaoming's "Sheng" album) and his use of the lusheng in addition to the sheng. Despite being only in his early 30s, he has already had a distinguished career touring Asia, Europe and America, winning top places in prestigious national and international music contests, securing the position of sheng soloist with the Shanghai Chinese Classical Music Orchestra and finally moving to Germany, where he is currently involved with the European jazz and contemporary music scene. In addition to sheng and lusheng he also plays many other instruments, including the free reed pipes bawu and hulusi. Not surprisingly, the focus of this CD is his sheng playing, with fairly traditional small group accompaniment.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Yuan, Guo Brothers & Shung Tian (Real World 62310)

True superstars of the world music scene, Guo Yue plays a variety of Chinese flutes, whilst Guo Yi plays sheng. This album presents a sampling of the range of music they play, from the very traditional to the very modern, with accompaniment ranging from classical Chinese string instruments, to synthesisers and studio generated textures. Produced by former Clannad member Pól Brennan, the music is at times haunting, at other times stately and at yet other times joyful. A veteran of over 200 Chinese film soundtracks, Guo Yi's sheng is featured both in a supporting role to his brother's flute playing, as well as getting a chance to shine in a lead role. We are also treated to the warm earthy tones of the bawu on the track "Soldiers of the Long March".     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


International Music Series: Music of China, Guo Yi and Guo Yue (Nouveau 43782-2)

The Guo Brothers in more traditional mode. More dancing flutes and shimmering sheng, this time with accompaniment limited to the yang quin (a Chinese dulcimer) and simple percussion. The bawu is also featured on one track ("Dawnbreaks"), this time completely solo. Simply beautiful.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Sheng Masterpieces Performed by Sheng Masters, Various Artists (China Record Co. CCD-94/376)

The title of this CD could not be more accurate. Top players such as Xu Chaoming (see above), Weng Zhenfa (soloist of the Shanghai Film Studio Orchestra), Mou Shanping (associate professor at the Shandong College of the Arts) and Mou Nan (Mou Shanping's son and also a teacher at the Shandong College of the Arts) put the sheng through its paces. An excellent introduction to modern sheng playing at its finest, this has been difficult to find on CD for some time, but is now available as .mp3 downloads from Amazon.    Click here for more details from Amazon.com


The Phoenix Spreading Its Wings, Hu Tianquan (China Record Co. )

Hu Tianquan could be described as being to the sheng what Segovia was to the classical guitar - a virtuoso, an innovator and an inspiration to a generation of musicians who wanted to follow in his footsteps. A dozen stunning performances on an another album that has been hard to find for some time, but has now been made available as .mp3 downloads from Amazon.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


JAPAN

Suspended in Amber, Sarah Peebles (Innova Recordings 506)

Sarah Peebles is a Canadian-born composer of modern music and on this CD she collaborates with several Japanese musicians to produce music centred on the sho, the Japanese cousin of the sheng. The centrepiece of the album is a 40 minute piece in six parts called "Revolving Life", in which the sound of the sho is combined with samples of bells, bubbling water, birds and insects. The closing track features the sho alongside the Ondes Martenot (an electronic instrument from the 1920s, which blends surprisingly well with the tone of the sho), but the two remaining pieces have a more traditional Japanese feel to them, with the ethereal sound of the sho and its sparse, often stark, harmonies.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Gagaku: Imperial Court Music of Japan, Kyoto Imperial Court Music Orchestra (Lyrichord 7126)

Although some performers have used the sho as a solo instrument, its most common use is in the tradional Japanese court music gagaku. With a tradition dating back more than ten centuries, gagaku means literally "elegant music" most commonly features the sho, hichiriki (a double-reed instrument similar to the oboe), fue (a bamboo flute), koto and various percussion instruments. The role of the sho consists of playing long sustained tone clusters, which slowly evolve as the piece progesses. Music of great haunting beauty played by one of the tradition's leading ensembles.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Japon: Gagaku, Various Artists (Ocora C559018)

Another great introduction to gagaku music, this album features several different ensembles.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


LAOS

Visions of the Orient: Music from Laos, Nouthong Phimvilayphone (Amiata Media ARNR 0195)

The Laotian mouth organ khene, featured in a variety of settings: solos, duets, trios and as part of an ensemble with flute, vocals, stringed instruments and percussion. Repetitive, minimalist, pulsing - and totally addictive!     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Bamboo Voices: Folk Music from Laos, Khamvong Insixiengmai Ensemble (Music of the World/Latitudes LAT 50601)

Khene player Khamseung Syhanone, with vocalists Khamvong Insixiengmai and Thongxhio Mansione and occasional support from strings and percussion. Wonderful interplay between the male and female voices, over some seriously grooving khene playing. Irresistably catchy.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Anthology Of World Music: The Music Of Laos, Various Artists (Rounder CD 5119)

Another great selection of khene music (solo and duets, as well as backing up vocalists) and three examples of Laotian classical music (not including the khene). The liner notes by musicologist Alain Danielou have been quite heavily criticised by more knowledgeable people than myself, but the music is the most important thing here and there are some gems here.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Lam Saravane: Musique pour le Khene, Nang Soubane Vongath, Sengphet Souryavongxay, Nouthong Phimvilayphone (Ocora C 559058)

If you enjoyed the above CDs, then you will also enjoy this fine selection for more of the same driving khene playing and call-and-response vocals.    Click here for more details from Amazon.com


The Music of the Hmong People of Laos, Boua Xou Mua (Arhoolie CD446)

Boua Xou Mua is a Hmong spiritual leader and master musician now resident in the USA. On this recordings made at the Dallas Folk Festival in 1991, he plays New Year songs and funeral music on the qeej (the traditional 6 pipe Hmong mouth organ) and courtship songs on the dja mblai (a free reed pipe), ncas (a brass guimbarde), dja njer (a wind instrument similiar to a recorder) and a curled up banana leaf. The music is often quite sombre in tone and may sound quite strange to ears attuned to Western music, but Boua's mastery of his music should be obvious to everyone. Comes with a beautifully illustrated booklet, with photographs of Boua performing the traditional movements associated with the qeej.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Musiques Du Laos/Music of Laos, Various Artists (Inedit W260118)

A superb collection of field recordings from Laos, including performances of the free reed mouth organs of the Khmou’, Oï, Lao, Kui, Lolo and Hmong ethnic groups, showing both the differences and the similarities of the various instruments and playing styles.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


THAILAND

Flower of Isan: Songs And Music From Northeast Thailand, Isan Slete (Globestyle CDORBD.051)

Another great selection of khaen playing, this time from the Thai side of the Thaland/Laos border. A couple of virtuosic khaen solos, a few khaen-accompanied male/female vocal duets, some small ensemble instrumentals featuring the khaen, plus some pieces featuring other Thai instruments. Khaen player Thawee Sridamanee blows up a storm and the other musicians just lock straight into the groove with him. Possibly my favorite album of khaen playing.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Reeds, Gourds And Gods: Reed Instruments From The Hills Of Thailand, Various Artists (Indigenius/Believe Digital)

This album is a set of 23 .mp3 files for download, rather than a CD - and at less than half the price that you might expect to pay for such a CD. Alternatively, you can buy the tracks individually after previewing them. Hopefully, this format allows the distribution of more music that might otherwise remain unavailable to most of the world. As the title suggests, this is a compilation of performances on reed instruments from the various hill tribes of Northern Thailand, including the Hmong, Akha, Karen, Lisu and several others. Most of the instruments use free reeds and include a wide variety of mouths organs, free reed pipes and free reed horn, both solo and with accompaniment. These performances were recorded by John Moore, who runs the excellent Sounds of Thailand web site and he has put together a wonderful selection of tunes that I really can't recommend highly enough.    Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Sounds for the Spirits: Traditional Music of the Lisu, Various Artists (Indigenius/Believe Digital)

Another selection of .mp3 files put together by John Moore, this time focusing on just one tribe, the Lisu. As well as flutes and banjo-like instruments, there are several performances on their fulu free reed mouth organ and as a bonus, one track played on a tremolo harmonica. Some of the dance tunes are remarkably infectious, although the vocal stylings might be something of an acquired taste for many Western ears.    Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Songs Of The Tiger Hunters:Traditional Music Of The Lahu, Various Artists (Indigenius/Believe Digital)

Another John Moore compilation, this one concentrating on the music of the Lahu, with their naw mouth organ strongly featured, as well as a nice piece on a twin blade guimbarde. As with the other sets on this series, these are top quality field recordings and I highly recommend them all.    Click here for more details from Amazon.com


VIETNAM

Music of the Truong Son Mountains, Various Artists (White Cliffs Media 9990)

Another favorite album of mine, comprising a series of field recordings made by Dr. Phong Nguyen and Dr. Terry Miller documenting the music of various minority groups in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, including the Bahnar, Jarai, Ede, Trieng and other tribes. Featured free reed instruments include the khen mouth organ, ala free reed pipe and a buffalo horn with a free reed set into its side. Informative booklet. The sound of insects in the background of most of the recordings only seems to add to the appeal! This CD is not available from Amazon.com, but I strongly recommend you visit the Institute for Vietnamese Music to get yourself a copy. If you have the slightest interest in non-Western music, you will not be disappointed.


Anthology Of Ede Music: Children Of Master Heaven, Various Artists (Buda BD 92726-2)

More recordings from central Vietnam, this time concentrating on a single tribe. The Ede have an astonishing range of musical instruments and the reed reeds featured here include mouth organs, free reed horn and the wonderfully expressive ding tac ta - a free reed pipe with gourd windchest.     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Art of the Khen, Various Artists (Arion ARN 60367)

This album features both the Tai khen and the Hmong gaeng (qeej), instruments vitally important to the cultural identities of each group. An excellent overview of the music associated with these related, but quite distinct mouth organs.    Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Music From Vietnam 3: Ethnic Minorities, Various Artists (Caprice Records CAP21479)

1993 field recordings of various ethnic groups in Vietnam including the Ê Ðê and Hmong, with free reed horns, pipes and mouth organs strongly featured. Some great rural grooves!     Click here for more details from Amazon.com


Audio-visual resources on the web

Asza.com has pictures and sound samples of a wide variety of free reed instruments from the collection of Canadian musician Randy Raine-Reusch.

Sounds of Thailand, as the name suggests, presents a wide variety of sounds from Thailand, including some great clips of Thai free reed instruments played by local musicians. This was put together by John Moore who compiled some of the Thai collections mentioned above and the site also includes some great recordings of wildlife, Thai languages and everyday sounds. Some great photography too.


A Brief History of Mouth Blown Free Reed Instruments
What Is A Free Reed?
Origins Of The Free Reed
Eastern Free Reed Instruments
A Selective Discography Of Asian Free Reed Instruments
Western Free Reed Instruments
Bibliography


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