Myanmar (Burma) is the nation with a lot of cultural heritage and these include musical instruments. One of the earliest records about Myanmar musical instruments were found in Chinese history which describe a musical band of Pyu Dynasty from Srikestra in 802 AD visiting Chinese imperial court of Tang dynasty. Thebronze images of this musical band is now in display at the Art and Craft show room at the National Museum of Yangon.
The Myanmar orchestra which is known as SaingWaing in Myanmar Language. There consists of circle drum, circle gong, bronze cymbal, oboe, timing bells, bamboo clapper, flute and harp.
The Myanmar Harp takes place the heading of orchestra on its special stand often decorated with carving of mythical serpents studded with brilliant and guilt. Although Violin is the king of musical instruments in the western culture ,Harp is the king of musical instruments in Myanmar. Its tones are sweet , gentle and pleasant unlike the others musical sound .
Some young ladies of Myanmar are proud of taking beauty photo or modeling with typical dress by holding harp.
There are two kinds of harp , bent-bow type and the triangle shape type. Myanmar harp is usually fashioned in the shape of beat. The harps of Mon and Rakhine are the cordial shape but a little different. There are two sizes of harps, men’s harp measure 20 to 32 inches in length and from24 to 28 inches for women.
Myanmar harp consists of three parts, body ,arm and strings. Its body is hollow, is carved on wood into boat shape, stretched by leather of deer on it and the handle is fitted together with string bar. Strings are tied to the string bar and pulled up to the arch. The body is heavily lacquered and decorated with glass mosaic and gold leaves on floral design.
The strings are hand twists from two kinds of raw silk in required thickness, known as Khin -wa silk and Khin-gyi silk. Some harps in the olden days can be seen with 13 strings but we can see with 14 strings nowadays.
The traditional way of playing Myanmar harp is always in a sitting position. Holding the harp in arm on the folded thigh, left handis to handle and to arrange the tune and right hand is to play the music.
It haseven a famous legend of King Utayna who had a mythical harp which can controlled the elephants when he played that harp saying mantras at the same time. By using of that mythical harp, he became a powerful king.
The sound of harp is sweet, gentle and lyrical. Although not many people can play harp nowadays, playing harp is proudly present in state reception and cultural show. For its noble and graceful appearance , it is still being regarded as an object of respect and hold the place of honour in the culture of Myanmar.