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Gaeng , Qeej, Kehn

The free-reed mouth organ of the Hmong people is called gaeng or qeej in Laos and northern Thailand, and kehn in Vietnam. It is usually played for funeral rites but can also be performed at the New Years festival and other events. It is considered an older version of the Chinese lusheng, still found in parts of China, and has the same basic construction. It has a very long wooden wind chamber intersected by six pipes placed in two rows, and that curve upwards. The mouthpiece can be up to a metre long with the pipes ranging from a metre (common in Laos) to 4 metres (found in southern China). Gaeng usually have brass reeds.

Gaeng players often perform very athletic movements while playing the gaeng, some of which are to confuse spirits of the dead at funeral rites and others to demonstrate physical prowess. Often the instrument resembles either a beak or a bird or a sword during these dances. One ritual in northern Thailand involves the player dancing on one leg close to the edge of a cliff, imitating a bird spirit.

Country: Laos, N. Thailand, Vietnam
Region: South East Asia
Type: Free-reed

Gaeng, Qeej - free Reed mouth organ from Southeast Asia
©  R. Raine-Reusch, May 2002