Name: Khean.

Type: Mouth Organ > Free Reed > Aerophone.

Region: Laos > Thailand > South East Asia.

Description: The khean is a mouth-organ belonging to the Asian free-reed family of aerophones. khaen, kaen and khen; Lao (ແຄນ); Thai (แคน) khaen, Khmer (គែន) and Vietnamese: khèn. Often the name of the instrument is romanized as khean or khene. It is found in Laos, North East Thailand and can be occasionally found in parts of Northern Vietnam and Southern China. Traditionally the Khean is used in lam a form of improvisation. It is played in one of the five different modes by blocking the finger holes on the two pipes to form drones. The location of the finger holes allows for complex arrangements, melody, counter melody, chord and rhythm simultaneously.

Varieties: Several sizes of the khean exist, the most common of which is the 16 pipe version called the khean paat which is anywhere from 2-3 1/2 feet in length. The 18th pipe version being the khean gao reached up to 6 feet. The khean gao is seldom encountered due to length, which complicated things when transporting the instrument. The smallest instrument of the khean family is called the khean hok although considered a toy it can easily produce a surprising amount of music.

Each pipe contains a small brass or silver reed traditionally made by hammering a small coin on an elephant thighbone until it is paper thin and then cut to size. A single finger hole is drilled into each pipe. Once the reed is affixed into each pipe; all of the pipes then are inserted into the wind chamber. K’soot is a sticky substance from plants is applied to seal the, wind chamber. The pipes are arranged in parallel and inserted directly into the wind chamber.

Citations: New Grove Dictionary of Music > (Khean Article) by Randy Raine Reusch.