Sarah M. | Dylan
| Izzy L. | Erika |
Mark | Emma | Izzy
S. | Cristina | Mark
| Jeremy | Sara K.
Dang makes many beautiful and unique instruments,
including the qeej, a Hmong violin, a Thai recorder, and two
different flutes. The Hmong violin is called a violin, but
it is VERY different than the picture that comes to mind.
I’ll start describing it from the bottom, and make my
way up. On the bottom there is a hollow 3D circle, a bit bigger
than a softball. There is a little piece of wood with holes
on it to let the sound out. Connected to this bottom piece
is a maple tube about two feet long, with two strings. Strangely
enough, the horsehair bow is attached to the instrument between
the two strings. After that there is a piece with four knobs
to tune the strings, and then...a beautifully painted snake’s
head. Not many people know how to make the carved oak snake’s
head—only about ten in the whole USA!
This awesome instrument makes a somewhat scratchy sound, but
it is also quite pretty sounding.
The Thai mouth organ is definitely my favorite of the many
instruments Dang brought in. It has 16 bamboo pipes in all,
8 laid over 8. One layer consists of eight pipes, starting
with the shortest, second shortest, and so on, each being
about an inch or two longer than the last. The pipes and layers
are bound together three times (once at the bottom, once at
the middle, and once at the top) with beautifully embroidered
two inch wide strips of heavy cloth. The player blows into
a tube in a hollow wood sphere.
I love the sound.
Dang also brought in two flutes and a Hmong recorder. The
two flutes are made out of bamboo, with five holes. At the
top, in a tiny rectangular hole there is a piece of metal
with a tiny hole in it to let sound out. The recorder is like
the kind we use in Music class, but is made out of polished,
light wood, and has tattooed designs and only six holes.
I learned a ton from Dang. He kept me very interested. Instead
of just talking about one thing (which would get boring) he
talked all about his life in Thailand and Laos and America,
and his instrument making. I hope we get to see Dang and Lee
and experience their awesome work again.
Dang made his violin in Thailand and brought
it to America in 1980. The Hmong violin looks like a banjo.
The bottom has a drum-like piece. Covering the drum is a slab
of white pine. In the middle, is a bar below the strings made
out of maple. The head on the violin is made from a very strong
wood. The bow is made of horse hair and bamboo. It goes in
between the two strings so that you can not take it out of
The har flute is a very small flute that has a sound that
can travel one
mile. Young men and women used the flute to communicate with
each other. It has a very high sound. Dang can only play three
or four songs on the har flute.
Dang and Lee want their children and grandchildren to know
about their culture. They want their boys to have the knowledge
[about instruments] Dang does. And they want their daughters
to do needlework and have the knowledge Lee does.
Dang Yang was born in Laos. When he was very
young, his father showed him how to make instruments. By the
time he was four, he had made an instrument. When Dang was
still young, his father got killed by Communists. He, his
mother, sister and brother, cried and cried. To cheer them
up, his uncle threw a party. There was a mouth organ player
and a person who played the Hmong violin, which Dang made
later on in his life.
The violin that Dang makes has a serpent's head on
it. That is not really traditional, but the violin is of a
very high quality. To play a Hmong violin, the bow must be
under the strings, not over them. There were flutes and a
recorder, too. One flute is used to court. The boy plays the
flute and chases the girl. Another, a tiny one, is used to
wake girls up at night and talk to them.
The mouth organ is used to talk to girls
when it is evening. They like music better than talking 'cause
it's more interesting. "You don't got this, you got no
girl," Dang says.
The little Hmong flute is used to communicate
with the ladies while they are farming. [To reply] The ladies
would take a banana leaf and blow on a piece of it to say
come over here! So the guys would do that, back in Laos.
The sound of the little flute goes a mile,
so you can talk to far away friends. In his country, they
use the flute instead of cell phones.
Dang makes the violin with different woods
for different parts. These woods are maple, white pine, oak,
and another. The bow is made from horse hair. The strings
are the same as guitar strings, but how they are tuned makes
them sound different. Dang uses no fancy tools, just a knife,
to make the parts. He also puts decorations on it. "I
am not an artist," he said. But the instruments looked
really good to me!
What I learned when Dang came is that people
can make flutes. I learned that they can make a qeej pipe
with just one knife. Dang taught me to believe in people who
His dad taught him how to make instruments.
He just looked at his father’s hand, and started to
In Laos, people play the Hmong violin
to soothe worries about their future. The Hmong mouth organ
has 16 holes and can produce over 100 sounds. Not many people
can play it. When Dang's father was killed, they played the
Hmong mouth organ.
Dang Yang is an instrument maker and player.
He makes and plays the Hmong violin, Hmong flute, Hmong recorder,
Laos mouth organ, and many more. The Hmong violin looks like
an American violin, but has only two strings, and the bow
is attached to the instrument. The Hmong recorder looks exactly
like an American recorder except that it gets narrow at the
end and is made of bamboo. The Laos mouth organ looks like
a pan pipe.