The hulusi (traditional: 葫蘆絲; simplified: 葫芦丝; pinyin: húlúsī) or cucurbit flute is a free reed wind instrument from China and the Shan State. It is held vertically and has three bamboo pipes that pass through a gourd wind chest; the center pipe has finger holes and the outer two are typically drone pipes. It is not uncommon for a hulusi to have only one drone pipe while the second outer pipe is merely ornamental. The drone pipe has a finger hole, which allows it to be stopped. Advanced configurations have keyed finger holes similar to a clarinet or oboe, which can greatly extend the range of the hulusi to several octaves.
The hulusi was originally used primarily in the Shan State of Myanmar and Yunnan province by a number of ethnic-minority groups, in particular the Dai people who call the instrument "pi lamtao" (筚朗叨 – the word "pi" means woodwind instruments, and the word "lamtao"(namtao) means gourd), and has gained nationwide popularity throughout China; similar to the popularity of the harmonica in the West, and "improved" versions have been produced outside the indigenous realms. Like the related free reed pipe called bawu, the hulusi has a very pure, very mellow clarinet-like sound.
A similar instrument called hulusheng is a mouth organ with a gourd wind chest.
The instrument's name comes from the Chinese words hulu, meaning "gourd," and si, meaning "silk" (referring to the instrument's smooth tone). The instrument is called pi lamtao in the Dai (Tai Nuea) language of Dehong and "pi namtao" in Lue language (Sipsong Panna), Khun language (Kengtung), Yuan language (Northern Thailand), Lao language and Thai language.
Although the hulusi is still predominantly performed in China, it has in recent years been adopted by European composers and performers. Rohan Leach from England, Rapheal De Cock from Belgium, Sara Bentes from Brazil, Nadishana from Russia and Herman Witkam from the Netherlands have all taken the instrument in new directions.
- "The Cucurbit Flute". cultural-china.com. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- Hulusi video from The Musical Instruments E-book