There are many instruments known to the hmong culture, but the instrument most well known to hmong music is called a reed pipe(spelled qeej in hmong hmong writing system). The qeej (reed pipe) is an important cultural symbol that keeps the tradition of the geograpically scattered hmong alive yet today. The qeej is a very unique instrument because every note corresponds to a hmong word. The qeej is a free-reed mouth organ, which is used to play a text based melody in the middle range. It consists of a wooden wind chest, with a long horizantal tapering neck, ending in a mouth hole. The wooden section is made from two identical pieces of mahogany which is bounded together with straps. The six bamboo tubes are variously curving or straight can also change in length from the smallest for a child’s instrument to about two meters for a more experience player. Each bamboo tube has a hole for fingering above the wind chest and a metal free reed over a hole in the pipe encircled within the wind chest. For extra volume, the lowest tube, which is also the thickest and shortest one, is often composed of two or three reeds. The tubes are inserted vertically through the wind chest. When the player exhales or inhales and covers one or more holes for fingering, this allows air in the tube in motion to cause a musical tone. This popular instrument is not only played at special many events such as funeral or vital spirits, but the performer often has acrobatic dances to go along with it. There are two types of qeej composition texted and textless. Both genres are played successively in rituals, including funerals, ancestral rites, offerings to vital spirits, sacrifices to the drum, and marriages.
The qeej is more than an instrument in the hmong culture. The music it plays is like an extension to the hmong language, meaning every note sybolizes its own word. To Hmong people, the sounds of the qeej is like speech and qeej players are known as story tellers performing older hmong ceremonial songs. Qeej players often also dance and perform acrabatic movements while playing. It is most often played at funerals and is an instrument that communicates with the spirit world. It is an unusual instrument because of its ability to express musically the lyrical qualities of the tonal hmong language.


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