Ata are bamboo jaw harps of the Lahu people of southern China, and northern South East Asia. They are played in pairs and are attached to each other by a common string that ends at a bamboo carrying case. Ata were traditionally used for courting, in two different tunings. Instruments tuned a fifth apart were used for intimate conversations between young people, and taken up after the couple used the naw or hulusheng mouth organ to get acquainted. Instruments tuned a fourth apart were used by older people to rekindle the feelings of youth, and for divorced or widowed people to attract a new mate. The higher pitched of the pair is considered the female instrument and the lower a male. Ata performed a musical code with each note corresponding to a spoken syllable. Unfortunately these practices have disappeared and now these instruments are made primarily for tourists. This pair was collected in Chiang Mai, Thailand in 1984.
Type: jaw harp
|© R. Raine-Reusch, May 2002