Burmese Music

The Burmese received instruments and other influences from India via the Mon people. Some of these instruments and forms, still employed in Burma, disappeared from India a long time ago. One example of this kind of instruments is, for example, the Burmese harp, saung gauk, regarded as the country’s national instrument. It is based on an ancient Indian harp, which spread via the Mon culture to the mainland areas of Southeast Asia. It now exists only in Myanmar. It forms the basis of Burmese musical theory and it is also used as a solo instrument or accompaniment for singing, and most of the classical melodies are based on harp compositions.

The orchestras are divided into indoor, soft-sounding, and outdoor, loud-sounding, ones. A harp, a flute, and a bamboo xylophone are common instruments in the soft-sounding chamber orchestras. The larger and louder orchestras (hsaing waing) generally consist of a series of tuned drums, tuned gongs, oboe-like wind instruments, and percussion. Hsaing waing is used as an accompaniment for various ceremonies as well as for dance and theatre performances.