The Cambodian M’baut

  • The Hulusheng (in Chinese) or M’baut is a traditional Cambodian Mouth Organ found all throughout East Asia, and Southeast Asia under different names with slight variations. The Lisu people stem from a mountainous region in Burma, Southwest China, and the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh, and call the mouth gourd a “Fulu.” The Lahu people originate in Southeast Asia and China and call the instrument a “Naw.” The Akha are a small hill tribe of people that come from Thailand, Burma, Laos, China and the Yunnan Province, and refer to the mouth organ as a “Lachi.” The instrument is also known as the “Laotian Khene.”
  • The M’baut is an instrument constructed and played by the East/Southeast Asian upland ethnic minorities, and is constructed in different ways depending upon the region. For instance, some mouth organs use an elongated tube of wood rather than a gourd, and in other instances, there are open holes at the bottom of the pipes that allow for pitch sliding from one note to another, or tone bending.
  • The Hulusheng/M’baut is at least 2500 years old, and has a range of one octave. It has a smooth and graceful timbre and is not very loud. The M’baut is played as a solo instrument, or to accompany more instruments during song and dance. In recent years, people have added an additional few pipes, which enriches the tonal quality of the Hulusheng. They instrument makers have also began broadening the space within the gourd or wood, which has increased volume and added an additional octave.
  • The (aerophone) instrument is played by breathing air through a free-reed mouth piece, which flows into the body of the gourd. The air is then filtered through the open or closed holes (dependent upon finger placement), and resonates through 5-7 bamboo pipes of varying lengths. Like with an Organ, contrasting pipe sizes and lengths create lower and higher pitches, while created different tonal qualities as a result.


  1. Rachel,

    Awesome. You’ve chosen one of my favorite instruments! Excellent use of pictures and video to create a compelling blog post. Here’s a treat… A link to a rare double LP of khene music from Laos on the Ocora label. Digitized by yours truly through a vacuum tube preamp. Enjoy!

  2. Thanks for the response, Paul. You always help make my writing sharper! Anything I can do to excel is what must occur! Do you think at this point I should change much more than what I added? I took away two of the videos, and added a picture. Not sure the loading time is any different than it was before. What do you think? Should I just move on and make sure that next time I have a more balanced mashup between youtube videos, audio samples, and picture? (where is a good place to get royalty-free/legal audio samples, by the way?)

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