(Sound Example) (251K.) Excerpt of saung performance by U Thein Han.
The Burmese harp was used to accompany the human voice in the singing of songs from the Maha Gita. It could accompany the voice alone or as part of the chamber ensemble. The chamber music ensemble drew from various instrumental combinations used in the royal courts. The main instruments of the ensemble were the Burmese xylophone, patala and the harp. To these could be added the palwe, a flute, the fiddle, tayaw and at one time, although no longer in use today, the hynin, a small mouth organ. Also used was the mijaun, a plucked zither with a wooden body in the shape of a crocodile.
Most important in the ensemble was the human voice which manifest the poetry of the Maha Gita and was supported by the other instruments. In modern times the Western violin replaced the older Asian fiddle which has since disappeared, as have the crocodile zither and the mouth organ. The Burmese harp and Patala remain strong but have been, at times, joined by the steel or Hawaiian guitar, often a dobro type guitar played with a sliding steel bar, and the Western piano. The piano is not usually played together with the other chamber music instruments except in performances of modern popular or film music.
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last updated 5 November 1995