Traditional Burmese Musical Instruments

Drum ensemble

Hsain Wain

Hsain Wain refers to an ensemble of instruments which include the pa’ wain, ci wain, maun hsain, hneh, pa’ ma, sa khun, hcau’loun pa’, si toh, ling win, and si wah. In the hsain wain, the pa’ wain is the leading instrument. The pat’ wain is a series of graduated drums hung in a circle from a gilded wood structure ornamented on the outside with embedded glass mosaic. When playing these drums, five characteristics have to be met: the sound has to be stable, clear, properly tuned, loud enough to be heard and played from the head of the pa’ drum.

The degree of ornamentation on the outside wooden structures holding the drums and gongs in the Hsain Wain signifies whether or not the hsain is common or for the court. The royal hsain is made entirely of glass mosaic embedded in gilded wood. It comes in many different colors and has elaborate decorations. The common hsains are red, made of lacquer and mercuric sulphide and do not have elaborate straps or flags.

A pa’ wain consists of a set of 18 to 21 drums encased in a circular wooden frame. The musician enters the drum circle through a back gate and sits in the center of the circle of drums. Each of these wooden drums are tuned by removing or adding a paste made from rice and ash (nowadays, a glue compound is used as well) at the center of the drum head.