H’mong Pen Pipe

There are many attraction of travelling to Vietnam, and one of them is certainly visiting the ethnic groups that like in the more remote parts of the Country. Today’s Vietnam travel packages often contain time in the Highland regions, Northern and Central, where it is possible to get an appreciation of daily life, the culture and traditions of its people. At festival time, or on other special occasions, these groups need no excuse to celebrate and music is one of the joys in their lives and has been for generations. The Hmong is one of the largest tribes living on the borders with Laos and China in the North.


The Pen Pipe is one of the wind instruments that has a different name, depending upon the Tribe. The Hmong call theirs the Kenh, while the majority Kinh (Viet) people know it as the Khen and the Ede as the Dinh Nam.

The Pipe comes in various different sizes and a small one would make a great present for friends and family after a holiday in Vietnam. There may be anything from 6 up to 14 sections in two rows. The tubes are bamboo with a reed made of copper. The sections of bamboo are within an air chamber with finger holes external to the chamber.

The length of the sections determines the pitch. The sound is strong, if lacking in clarity; the bass notes in fact are rather dull. The Pen Pipe is usually played by men and accompanies singing. When there is a funeral then pipes and drums are used, usually a single pipe. Dancing at such events is fairly vigorous and if you are able to attend such an event, you have quite a spectacle in store. Music has a special place in Vietnamese life and is has held that place for many centuries.