Myanmar traditional music, at the contemporary time, is enjoyed by not only local people but also a great number of foreign visitors who has passion for exploring the richness and uniqueness of Myanmar traditions and cultures. Thing that plays a crucial role in creating beautiful melody of this kind of music lies in the existence of musical instruments, especially bronze drums and one of the most amazing art forms that is gaining its ever-increasing popularity is Karen Bronze Drums, an ancient animist art form.
For a long time, the use of bronze drums has been closely attached with Southeast Asia’s art tradition. With a long history dating back to 6th century B.C which originated from northern Vietnam, this art form later made its way to neighboring areas, including Burma, Thailand, China and Indonesia. However, the use of bronze drums was adopted by the Karen before their migration at the 9th century to Burma from Yunna. They settled in low mountains along the border between Thailand and Burma. Experience a long time of transfer, the drum type has changed that much with an invention of a separate Karen type.
One of the most remarkable features involves a less bulbous cylinder. Bronze drum was used as a device to wish prosperity by inducing the spirits to bring rain for locals. Moreover, according to the Karen, the bronze drum was also used to tempt ancestors to be involved in important occasions or some significant rituals. It seems that the most ancient drum uses was by the Karen who adopts those instruments into funeral rituals.
In addition to common uses in special occasions or funeral rituals, drums were highly valued as potent and powerful instrument in which they were used as a practice to enhance the fertility of rice. Interestingly, drums are considered a form of currency as they could be used for trading goods as well as services. In short, drums, in the belief of the Karen, were so important that no Karen could be regarded wealthy if that person did not own one.