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10 / 11 / 2021

The Bamboo Flute:

characteristic of culture

People like to make music: in traditional ceremonies, or just for the atmosphere and fun. This has been done for thousands of years, all over the world. When making instruments, a hollow bamboo pole is an obvious base for a flute. With the wide distribution of bamboo in the southern hemisphere, it is not surprising that bamboo flutes can be found in all sorts of cultures. This ancient instrument can be found in many forms. In China, for example, there is even a word that literally means bamboo flute: zhudi. At Bamboo Import Europe, we regularly meet people who make flutes from bamboo. As we know, the list of all possible names and variations is very long. So in this blog, we will cover a selection of bamboo flutes from around the world. Do you make a bamboo flute yourself? Let us know about it!

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The Bamboo Flute: A Characteristic of Culture 14

The Bamboo Flute: A Characteristic of Culture 15

The Japanese Shakuhachi and Ryuteki

In Japan, first of all, you have the Shakuhachi. This centuries-old bamboo flute is often used for meditation music. The name comes from two Japanese words "Shaku" and "Hachi". The meaning is given by the length of the flute. It comes down to 54.54 centimetres, which is the standard length of a Shakuhachi. Sometimes there is some variation in the length, but then they all fall under the heading of Shakuhachi. This has to do with the fact that (just like the rest of the flutes) the Shakuhachi is made in a special way. Hereby tradition is characteristic for the sound it produces. The Shakuhachi is made from the lower part of the bamboo, including the underground clump. This is why you can still see part of the roots of a Shakuhachi. 

Another well-known Japanese bamboo flute is the Ryuteki. Ryuteki means "dragon flute". The sound is said to symbolise the dragons that live between heaven and earth. The Ryuteki is used in gagaku. This is the Shinto classical music used in the Japanese court system.

The Sakuhachi
The Dizi

The Chinese Dizi

The Chineze Dizi is a transverse flute from China. A piece of membrane is glued over the air hole, which gives the flute its unique sound. There are variations of the Chinese Dizi in archaeological finds dating back as far as 9000 years. This Dizi flute is one of the oldest playable instruments of all times.

The Indian Bansuri

The Bansuri is a flute from India and is often heard in classical Indian music. Yet you can also play modern, Western music. You see the Bansuri flute back in drawings, paintings and statues of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain temples. Especially the Hindu god Krishna is often seen with a Bansuri flute.

The Bansuri

The Thai Khlui

The Khlui is a bamboo flute from Thailand. This flute originates from the Sukhothai period (1283-1583), like many other Thai instruments. The Khlui was only recognised as an instrument by the king Trailokkanat (1431-1488). This model is therefore the model for all Khlui's that follow. Now the Khlui is known as the Khlui Phiang Aw.

The Cambodian Khloy

This Cambodian flute is often mistaken for its Thai variant. The Khlui, however, is different from the Khloy. The Khloy has a membrane of rice paper or a very thin layer of bamboo on the highest hole. It is an ancient instrument that is mainly played in the informal setting.

The Korean Daegeum

The Daegeum is a relatively large bamboo flute, mostly used in traditional Korean music. The vibrating membrane gives the flute a unique tone. The origin of this musical instrument can be found in the legend of King Sinmun of Silla, from 681. The story goes that a small island was floating towards a Buddhist temple in the East Sea. The king was told that he would receive a gift of inestimable value if he visited the island. He sent someone to the island to investigate what the gift would be, but he found only bamboo. The next day there was so much wind and rain that the world was in darkness for a week. Then the king decided to visit the island. A dragon appeared and told him: harvest the bamboo from high up on the island and make a flute out of it. As long as you blow the flute there will be peace.

The Daegeum, for example, has its royal origins and is still used in traditional music in Korea. The flute from the legend also plays a role in contemporary entertainment. The Korean Netflix series 'The King: Eternal Monarch' is also about the legend of Manpasikjeok, as the flute is also called.

The Daegeum

The Indonesian Suling

The Suling or Seruling is a traditional instrument in the islands of South-East Asia. We say it comes from Indonesia, but actually it originates from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. It is used in Degung ensembles and is made of Tamiang bamboo: a long, thin bamboo. At the mouth hole there is often a thin band of rattan, this is mainly for decoration.

The South American Quena

In South America, the Andes Mountains run through many different countries. In the Andes, we know the Quena as a traditional flute. They are usually made from bamboo, but in Peru you can also see them made from the bones of a Condor. Quenas are never played alone, but always in pairs in order to harmonise. The Quena is often played in combination with a pan flute.

The Quena

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