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Pi pap is a popular wind instrument with free-vibrated reed among Thai people, especially Thai community in the Northwestern Vietnam.
The body of Pi pap is a hornless bamboo tube of 30-35cm length and 0.8cm diameter, with one node-closed end. A rectangular hole of 0.4cm x 1.5cm dimension is pierced just near to the node and placed with a bronze reed of isosceles triangular shape. There are 6 fingering holes on the tube, of which, the top fingering hole is on the other side of the tube while the 5 other holes are vertically arranged with the reed. Although there are 6 fingering holes, only 5 holes are used when being played. Uncovering the holes in turns would give sequence of tones Si, Re1, Fa1, Sol1, and La1. The only non-covered hole is the sound hole.
When playing Pi pap, instrumentalist holds it horizontally and slightly down. The instrumentalist holds in his mouth the whole reed end and continuously blows into the tube. Pi pap employs techniques such as tongue fluttering, appoggiatura, tongue articulation, glissando and air compressing.
Timbres of Pi pap are warm but cracked, imbued with sounds of overtones. It is said that Pi pap sounds could be as clear and lyrical as singing voices of girls.
Pi pap is the instrument used in courting cultural activities. Men usually play Pi pap to accompany for girls in singing. The accompanying principle is quite simple as the instrumentalists replay the melodies during the singers' interludes. However, such melodies would be improvisedly played compared to the singing melodies. The better the man can improvise the melody, the more fascinating it is to his singing partner. That is why Pi pap is the fondling instrument of Thai young men and women.
Text and Photos courtesy by Vietnam Datacommunication Company (VDC)
and Vietnamese Institute for Musicology (V.I.M)