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A khene player in Isan A khene player in Isan

The khene (also spelled "khaen", "kaen" and "khen"; Thai: แคน) is a mouth-organ whose pipes are connected with a small, hollowed-out wooden reservoir into which air is blown. It is a polyphonic instrument and hence is important to the history of music. Today associated with the Lao of Laos and Northeast Thailand, similar instruments date back to the bronze age of Southeast Asia. The Chinese adopted mouth organs at an early point, and the now-obsolete yu may have been similar in construction to the modern khaen. The Chinese today call their most widely used mouth organ sheng.

The most interesting characteristic of the khene is its free reed, which is made of brass. It is related to Western free-reed instruments such as the harmonium, concertina, accordion, harmonica, and bandoneon, which were developed beginning in the 18th century from the Chinese sheng, a related instrument, a specimen of which had been carried to St. Petersburg, Russia.

The khene uses a pentatonic scale in one of two modes (thang sun and thang yao), each mode having three possible keys. It is played as a solo instrument, as part of an ensemble, or as an accompaniment to mor lam.

In Thailand, one of the top virtuoso khaen soloists is the blind musician Sombat Simla. The khene has also attracted a few non-Asian performers, most notable of whom is the U.S. performer Christopher Adler (a professor at the University of San Diego), who also composes for the instrument.


It has seven tones per octave, with intervals similar to that of the Western diatonic scale: A-B-c-d-e-f-g.


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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.