Maha Gita

Maha Gita (“great music”; often referred to as Thachin Gyi) refers to entire corpus of classical Burmese music. While Burmese music shares its origins with the influence of Chinese and Thai political interaction, it does not share the rigid denial of decadence that stems from the Buddhist influences in China and Thailand. With the influence of so many Southeast Asian countries practicing court music and performance during the era of the Khmer civilization, the coalescing of religious dance and performance propagated a musical culture that ties cosmology, social structure, and political sanctity.  Thus, the dynamism of political and religious interaction and heritage can be seen through the distinct and similar components of court music foMahagita1und in Southeast Asia, with specific regard to Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand, Laos, and Indonesia.

Although Maha Gita typically refers to the court music of Burma, it actually is bifurcated into two distinct styles: the formal chamber music of which would be more strict and structured (and more frequently performed within the court),and the more spirited hsaìng style. The two styles differ significantly in the composition of their ensembles—the hsaìng genre is (usually) composed entirely of hnegyi (a double reed instrument similar to an oboe), gongs, and drum circles, of which a typical drum outfit can be seen in the image to the right. As seen, a traditional drum apparatus consists of a variety of different sizes, all of which lead to a different pitch. Much like the drums, cymbal and gong apparatuses have analogous compositions within Burmese music (To see further, watch the first video link in Further Reading section). The hsaìng variation typically accompanies folk tradmahagita2itions and storytelling.

The formal chamber style, however, can serve many distinctive purposes, such as evoking feelings of longing (Loung Chin songs), evincing lamentation and sorrow (Bole), or even to incite horses to dance (Myin Gin). Although the formal court music was originally more stylistically similar to that of hsaìng following the introduction of foreign musical influences, Western instrumentation and melodic rigidity became pervasive in Burmese court music in the mid-19th century due to British colonialism and the growing threat of Western imperialism. Burmese court music then, began to include pianos, violins, slide guitars (of Western fashion), and mandolins. Yet, formal Burmese chamber music never grew to incorporate Western time signatures or rhythmic structures; Maha Gita tends to stay within 4/4 or 2/4 time signatures and typically follows a methodical ordering of rhythmic progression.

Further Reading: