Yi: A Rare Musical Instrument Shaped Like a Flute


Papuan instruments are usually used as an accompaniment to dances or even as a means of flag ceremonies and self-entertainment. Papuan traditional instruments are not just one type but many different instruments. One of them discussed in this article is Yi.

Yi is a traditional musical instrument that originated in West Papua. It is a percussion instrument shaped like a flute. Yi belongs to the category of rare instruments. No wonder many people outside Papua still need to learn about this instrument.

Before discussing the Yi instrument further, it is necessary to understand that the presence of music has its own function and role for the Papuan.

Musical Culture in Papua

Like other regions, Papuan has its music. Papua’s musical culture is inseparable from dance and traditional rituals. Music in Papuan culture has functions and roles, from accompaniment to dances, weddings, death ceremonies, and other important guest ceremonies.

Papuans are an expressive society. They can express their artistic soul through traditional instruments, sculptures, and dances. All key moments of their activities are always celebrated and accompanied by traditional music. One is the musical instrument Yi, which serves as a means of entertainment and communication for the Papuan.

What are the Yi Musical Instruments Made of?

Papuan traditional musical instruments are indeed very diverse. When talking about Papuan musical instruments, you are probably no stranger to musical instruments like Tifa. However, what about other musical instruments? Uniquely, this traditional Papuan musical instrument uses materials from nature. This is one of the characteristics of Papuan instruments.

Like other musical instruments, Yi instruments are also made from natural materials. While the basic material for Tifa is taken from lizard skin, Yi`s musical instruments use wood and bamboo with a dark brown color.

How to make a Yi instrument

This Yi instrument is a flute like instrument, but its size looks very large. Yi was made of a tree trunk with a hollow inside. The wood the Yi is made from is typically bamboo that has been treated to produce a loud, beautiful sound.

Tools commonly used to make the Yi, include an ax to cut the wood, a machete to shape the outer part of the Yi, and a chisel to make holes. You can also use sandpaper to flatten the Yi’s surface.

If you’re used to building instruments like Yi, you’ll be up and running in no time. Yi instruments can be done in one day with relatively basic equipment.

How to play the Yi?

At first glance, this Yi instrument looks almost like a flute, but the difference lies in how it is played. This instrument is played not by blowing but by hitting it hard to produce sound.

Yi instruments often accompany traditional dances as they can produce unique sounds. Initially, Yi was a tool for gathering residents. Typically, this tool is used by traditional leaders when performing traditional ceremonies or announcing to the surrounding community.

These are some facts about the West Papuan musical instrument Yi. Musical instruments have played an important role in developing a culture in all parts of Indonesia, especially in West Papua. Therefore, it is important to inherit the culture of traditional musical instruments so that they become lessons for generations.