Hsaing waing

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Hsaing waing ensemble is seen behind the singers Burmese singers at Naypyidaw state luncheon.jpg
Hsaing waing ensemble is seen behind the singers

The hsaing waing (Burmese : ဆိုင်းဝိုင်း, pronounced  [sʰáiɰ̃ wáiɰ̃] ; also spelt saing waing), commonly dubbed the Burmese traditional orchestra (မြန်မာ့ဆိုင်း), is a traditional Burmese folk musical ensemble that accompanies numerous forms of rituals, performances, and ceremonies in modern-day Myanmar (Burma).


Hsaing waing musicians use a hemitonic and anhemitonic scale similar to the one used by Indonesian gamelan musicians. [1] The ensemble's principal instruments, including the pat waing, kyi waing, and hne, each play variations on a single melody (heterophony). [2]


The three major indigenous genres of gong-chime music prevalent in Southeast Asia include the gamelan of western Indonesia; the kulintang of the southern Philippines, eastern Indonesia, and eastern Malaysia; and the piphat of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and the hsaing waing of Burma. Gong and Chime Culture Map.jpg
The three major indigenous genres of gong-chime music prevalent in Southeast Asia include the gamelan of western Indonesia; the kulintang of the southern Philippines, eastern Indonesia, and eastern Malaysia; and the piphat of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and the hsaing waing of Burma.

The hsaing waing is the product of indigenous musical traditions, enriched with contact with a diverse array of musical traditions in neighboring Southeast Asian societies. The hsaing waing ensemble's principal instrument, a drum circle called pat waing , continues to use Indian drum-tuning methods, and is considered the last remaining vestige of Indian instrumentation in Southeast Asia. [1] Similar gong and chime ensembles are found in neighboring Thailand and Laos, where it is called piphat , and in Cambodia, where it is called pinpeat . However, these ensembles do not employ the use of a pat waing.

A 19th century watercolor depicts hsaing waing musicians accompanying a zat pwe drama performance. Bodleian Ms. Burm. a. 5 fol 0129-3.jpg
A 19th century watercolor depicts hsaing waing musicians accompanying a zat pwe drama performance.

The earliest pictorial evidence of the hsaing waing ensemble dates to the 1600s, coinciding with the Burmese invasion of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, which may have introduced additional instruments, principally a gong chime called kyi waing. [3] However, the Burmese hsaing waing differs greatly in its diversity of instruments and musical style from Thai ensembles. [4] Many of the hsaing waing instruments are shared instead with the an ensemble of Mon origin, the Thai piphat mon ensemble, indicating shared origins.

During the British colonial era, Sein Beda, a prominent musician, introduced various innovations to the ensemble, including decorating ensemble stands with traditional Burmese motifs and glass mosaic, introducing a jazz band to the ensemble, creating spotlights, and introducing musician uniforms. [5]


A 19th-century watercolor depicting components of the hsaing waing ensemble. Bodleian Ms. Burm. a. 5 fol 144.jpg
A 19th-century watercolor depicting components of the hsaing waing ensemble.

The hsaing waing ensemble includes a variety of percussion and wind instruments, including various gongs and drums: [6]

For more formal and classical performances, the ensemble may be accompanied by the saung gauk, the Burmese harp, the pattala , a Burmese xylophone, or the piano and violin, both of which were introduced during the colonial era. The Mon version of the hsaing waing ensemble also includes a crescent-shaped brass gong chime called la gyan hsaing in Burmese. [7]


Music from the hsaing waing ensemble accompanies singing, dancing, and dialogues in all types of theatrical performances. [3] Burmese scholarship recognizes 5 main types of hsaing waing ensembles:

  1. Bala hsaing (ဗလာဆိုင်း) - performed at celebratory occasions such as weddings, Buddhist ordainment rituals ( shinbyu ), ear-piercing ceremonies, funerals, lethwei competitions, and pagoda commemorations
  2. Zat hsaing (ဇာတ်ဆိုင်း) - accompanies traditional dramatic theatre and play performances
  3. Yokthe hsaing (ရုပ်သေးဆိုင်း) - accompanies classical marionette (puppetry) shows
  4. Nat hsaing (နတ်ဆိုင်း) - accompanies spirit propitiation rituals
  5. Anyeint hsaing (အငြိမ့်ဆိုင်း) - accompanies traditional anyeint performances

The distinct repertoire of recognizable tunes accompanies of each of these types of hsaing waing ensembles. [8]

Musical styles

Music of the hsaing waing is characterized by dynamic, lively and sudden contrasts and shifts in rhythm, melody and tempo. [9] [10] The melody typically follows a regular meter of 4 to 8 beats. [8] Anyeint dance performances, as well as nat gadaw and marionette puppet performances, are accompanied by the music of the hsaing waing, with the sudden shifts in musical rhythm reflected in the dancer's changing poses. [10] The melody is shaped by tones; a complex system of pitches, principal and auxiliary tones, and melodic phrase terminals (cadential formulas), ornaments, and the vocal lines are associated with particular modes, which are context-driven (depending on environment and stage situations) and express varying emotions. [3] The gong instrumentation provide repetitive motifs (see ostinato) during the course of a performance. [3]

By contrast, classical singing of the Mahāgīta tradition derived from royal chamber music, which is characterized by a quieter and more restrained musical style, is accompanied by either a classical ensemble or a single saung gauk. [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

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A piphat is a kind of ensemble in the classical music of Thailand, which features wind and percussion instruments. It is considered the primary form of ensemble for the interpretation of the most sacred and "high-class" compositions of the Thai classical repertoire, including the Buddhist invocation entitled sathukan as well as the suites called phleng rueang. It is also used to accompany traditional Thai theatrical and dance forms including khon, lakhon, and shadow puppet theater.

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(na-yi-se), a 2
(wa-let-se) or a 8
time signature. In Burmese, music segments are combined into patterns, and then into verses, making it a multi-level hierarchical system. Various levels are manipulated to create a song. Harmony in Mahagita is known as twe-lone, which is similar to a chord in western music. For example, C is combined with F or G.

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The saung, is an arched harp used in traditional Burmese music. The saung is regarded as a national musical instrument of Burma. The saung is unique in that it is a very ancient harp tradition and is said to be the only surviving harp in Asia.

Pat kon

The pat kon is a graduated brass gong chime associated with the Mon people of mainland Southeast Asia. The pat kon has been absorbed into the traditional musical ensembles of neighboring Southeast Asian societies.

Kyaw Kyaw Naing is a modern Burmese traditional musician who is trying to bring this music to the world stage. He is a master of the pat waing or saing waing, a traditional Burmese drum-circle instrument; the player sits in the middle of a horseshoe-shaped shell made of elaborately carved wood and decorated with gold leaf.

Pi (instrument)

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Ching (instrument)

Ching are finger cymbals played in Cambodian and Thai theater and dance ensembles.

Traditional Thai musical instruments are the musical instruments used in the traditional and classical music of Thailand. They comprise a wide range of wind, string, and percussion instruments played by both the Thai majority as well as the nation's ethnic minorities.

Gong chime

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Roneat ek

The Roneat Ek or Roneat Aek is a xylophone used in the Khmer classical music of Cambodia. It is built in the shape of a curved, rectangular shaped boat. It has twenty-one thick bamboo or hard wood bars that are suspended from strings attached to the two walls. They are cut into pieces of the same width, but of different lengths and thickness. Originally these instruments were highly decorated with inlay and carvings on the sides of the sound box. Now they are simpler. The Roneat is played in the Pinpeat ensemble. In that ensemble, sits on the right of the Roneat Thung, a lower-pitched xylophone. The roneat ek is the analogous equivalent to the Thai xylophone called ranat ek, and the Burmese bamboo xylophone called "pattala".

Pattala Percussive musical instrument

The pattala is a Burmese xylophone, consisting of 24 bamboo slats called ywet(ရွက်) or asan (အဆံ) suspended over a boat-shaped resonating chamber. It is played with two padded mallets. The pattala is tuned similar to the diatonic scale.

The pat waing or pat wang is a drum circle instrument used in the Burmese folk musical ensemble. This instrument has been adapted into the Thai piphat mon ensemble, where it is called poeng mang.


Roneat is the generic Khmer word for referring to several types of xylophones used in traditional Cambodian music; the pinpeat and mohaori.

Poeng mang

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Mahāgīta ; also rendered into Burmese as Thachingyi is the complete body or corpus of Burmese classical songs. The songs descend from the musical traditions of the Burmese royal court, and form the basis of Burmese classical music today.

Pin (harp) Cambodian harp

The pin is a Cambodian harp, one of the most historically important instruments in Cambodian music. The instrument went extinct c. 1500s, and is now being restored in modern times. Its historical importance is emphasized by the very name for Cambodian classical music, pin-peat. After the pin was no longer being used, Cambodians continued to use the instrument's name for classical music into the present era. When the pin was no longer being used, the tonal range of other instruments was expanded, possibly to compensate. Burmese saung gauk and roneats had more keys for the chromatic scale and the number of gongs in the kong von thom and kong toch "more than doubled in number since the musician depicted on the Angkorian carvings."

Sein Beda Musical artist

Sein Beda was a prominent Burmese classical musician based in Mandalay, Burma.

Mandalay Thabin

The Mandalay Thabin refers to the Mandalay-based dramatic arts industry, including yoke thé, anyeint, zat pwe, etc., flourished since the late Konbaung era, during the reigns of King Mindon and King Thibaw.


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