e-Knowledge Center—Traditional Instruments of Myanmar

Traditional Myanmar Musical Instrument, a Musical Saung © Shutterstock/aodaodaodaod

The traditional musical instruments of Myanmar are valuable cultural assets that represent the rich cultural traditions and arts of the country. The history of traditional instruments began as early as in the Pyu and Bagan periods. They were actively developed during the Innwa and Konbaung eras, contributing to the cultural enrichment of Myanmar. While the methods to make and play some of these instruments have been preserved until today, others have been lost to history or are at risk of extinction.

The Ministry of Culture of Myanmar has been making various efforts to preserve and raise awareness of traditional musical instruments. And as part of such efforts, it displayed traditional instruments and distributed books about thirty-three kinds of instruments during an exhibition held in 1955. In a 2003 celebration of traditional instruments, the Ministry of Culture exhibited over two hundred traditional instruments at the national museum. While the instruments on display were representative of many regions and states, many were not included. Because of this lack of full representativeness, additional research was required to identify the status and related information on the traditional instruments practiced across the country.

To address such research needs, ICHCAP and the Ministry of Culture of Myanmar undertook a project from 2013 to 2014 to support inventorying related to the making and research of Myanmar traditional instruments. The project intended to create a preliminary basis towards developing a national ICH inventory of craftsmanship and performing arts of traditional instruments in Myanmar. It was also aimed to safeguard important ICH related to the craftsmanship and performing arts of traditional instruments and thereby promote cultural diversity among multi-ethnic groups in Myanmar. It was also hoping to raise awareness to the Myanmar public about the values and importance of traditional instruments as ICH.

The project led to the collection of information about close to three hundred kinds of traditional instruments from ten regions in Myanmar, which includes the practicing areas and the names, images, and historical backgrounds of the instruments. The project outcomes also contain videos of playing about forty musical instruments.

The outcomes of the project are available online via our e-knowledge center.