Friday, September 22, 2006

The Archive of Traditional Music in Laos Project

From the Lao Language and Culture Learning Resources website (from the Center for Southeas Asian Studies - Northern Illinois University): Information about a recent project to document traditional music in Laos, including Hmong music.

From the website:
Begun in Vientiane in May 1999, the project was funded by DFG (German Research Association) and by GTZ (German Association for Technical Development Cooperation). It was affiliated with the Oldenburg-Ostfriesland-Wilhelmshaven in Emden Fachhochschule in close cooperation with the Museum of Ethnology in Berlin. From May 2001, the Phonogram Archives of project is privately funded by Dr. Gisa Jaehnichen. Tel.: 00856-21-251250
Details of the recordings and current holdings:
Up until May 2002, the project made field recordings in the provinces: Huaphan, Luang Prabang, Xiengkhuang, Vientiane, Bolikhamsay, Khammuan, Savannakhet, Salavan, Attapeu, Sekong, Bokeo, and Champasak. The project includes 1123 audio recordings from 25 different ethnic groups, 1690 minutes video recordings, 764 photographs, 135 transcriptions of music and 70 drawings and descriptions of musical public. instruments, which are accessible for the public.
They have made several tapes of this music available online, albeit with limited documentation. The first tape: Instrumental Music in Laos (Selection 1) features three recordings made of Hmong musicians. Each of the following may be streamed with RealPlayer. (Titles written as they appear on the website [i.e. with some spelling errors])
  • Track 3: Hmong Lay Folksong: Tueoti / Pii Hmong (Flute) / Xamtai/1999
  • Track 5: Hmong Khao Folksong: Khuamhak / Toen / Sam Neua/1999
  • Track 6: Hmong Lay Folksong: Khithot Phusao / Phi Hmoung (Flute) / Sam Neua/2000
[Track 3 is actually a raj nplaim performance. Track 5 is ncas, and track 6 is raj ntsia or a similar flute-type instrument.]

While I enjoyed listening to the recordings (which are of fairly good quality), I am even more fascinated by this tiny glimpse into the music and culture of Laos. Besides a few second-hand reports from Hmong Americans I have spoken with, there is very little information about Hmong music from contemporary Laos. Such a recording at least confirms that as recently as 2000, traditional forms of Hmong music were still practiced by Hmong in Laos. It would be more interesting to know the age of the performers: is the practice being maintained by the younger generation or are these older musicians? It would also be interesting to know more about the holdings of the archives, but I have been unable to find any information on the internet.

The rest of the music is well recorded and it is a treat to hear such a wide variety of performances. Definitely worth a listen. (There are three more tapes available at the website.) It's also worth noting that the SEAsite has lots of language and culture information about other countries in the region. Even the Lao website has much more to offer about Lao literature, arts, and folklore.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Qeej on "Music from Thailand and Laos" CD

One track on the CD "Music from Thailand and Laos," titled "Hmong khaen, features a qeej performance. The recording quality is rather poor, but you can hear the jingling of bells as the player moves. Not sure about the details of where the recording was made, but the ablum is available through Calabash Music. Tracks can be purchased individually. The rest of the album seems interesting, as well, and includes music from a wide variety of locations in Thailand and Loas.