Type: Free-Reed > Aerophone.
Region: China > Far East Asia & Vietnam > South East Asia.
Hornbostel–Sachs No#: 412.13
Dimensions: (Specimen) Length cm.
Acquisition Source: Both my Chinese and Vietnamese specimens of this instruments are from Randy Raine-Reusch.
Description: The bawu [in Chinese 巴 烏 pinyin bāwū] is a transverse reed aerophone having its origins in Yunnan China. The Yunnan province is located at the northern tip of the "Golden Triangle" region, that borders with Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Two different varieties of Bawu are played the first being the Bawu as it is played in Yunnan China among the Indigenous minority cultures being the Yi, Miao, Hani and Dai (Thai people in Southern China).
Origins: There is a beautiful legend with in Southern Chinese mythology concerning the origins of the bawu. "Two young Hanis fell in love with each other and in one day a demon grabbed the girl. Then the demon had cut off her tongue, and threw her into the deep mountains. Following the advice from a bird, that bamboo can talk. The girl made instrument from bamboo pouring out her misfortune through it. On hearing her sad voice the villagers came to kill the demon and relieved the girl". Since then the bawu has became a talking instrument. The distribution of the bawu was limited to the minority cultures in the Yunnan province. Since the 1950's the bawu has grown in popularity outside of the main distribution range in Yunnan to the rest of China proper. Recent genres include do include popular music, film music and other contemporary genres. The popularity of the bawu is growing outside of China.
Vietnamese Variety of Bawu: This type of bawu is almost identical to the Chinese bawu in construction although their tuning, scales and size do differ. The two specimens of my Vietnamese bawu are quite small in length. The Vietnamese bawu has six finger holes and a similar brass read. This type of bawu is surprisingly loud for such a small instrument, larger bawu are also found in Vietnam.
Construction: In the construction of a high quality bawu a mouth piece is carved from animal bone and a very thin brass reed is placed underneath the bone and over the hole. The bawu has a total seven equidistant finger holes this includes a thumb hole. Professional quality Bawu's are often constructed in three pieces which can be disassembled for ease of transport. The advantage of this also allows the ease of play for the performer.