Find a Wife in the Rice Fields
While staying near Chiang Mai, we were told about a local flute maker who we should meet. One hour-long drive and a ten minute hike later, we arrived at a waterfall compound where he makes and sells his instruments.
It turns out that he makes free-reed aerophones, not flutes. Not every lead is going to be 100% accurate; you just gotta roll with it (we will refer to them as horns in this post because that’s what he called them. The technical name, however, is free-reed aerophone).
His name is Boom and he is 63. He has been making Karen horns out of teak wood for many years. The horn was traditionally made out of water buffalo horn, but most are made out of wood now because of a lack of buffalo. “No many buffalo, many wood,” Boom explained.
Through a translator, he told us about the traditional usage of the Karen horn. It was often used during harvest season as a way to signal workers from long distances.
His eyes lit up as he told us about the other use of the horn: a courting dance in the rice fields. “Girl pick rice in field, man play horn and dance for her.”
It’s not difficult to create a sound with the horn. You can only produce about three distinct pitches, with pitch bending in-between, but what the horn lacks in range it makes up for in volume. Each horn is a different size, so the pitches vary from horn to horn. The small wooden horns that we played produced a higher sound than the large buffalo ones. Check it out.
We finished the night with curry, a swim, and homemade rice whisky–basically Karen moonshine.