You’ve probably heard of bamboo flutes and rain sticks, but the kouxian (口弦) is something entirely different. With a sound akin to a twangy version of synthpop, this instrument is likely to leave your head cocked and your jaw hanging open.
It’s a jaw harp, after all.
Made of bamboo or metal, the Chinese jaw harp comes in many forms and is common among ethnic minorities in Yunnan Province. Check out this video of a Pumi ethnic minority performance of the kouxian, or pick up a copy of our Music Issue, out soon, for more background on this unusual instrument.
In the meantime, here are two musical interpretations of the metal version of the instrument: