Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The raj in Hmong oral history

Most first-generation Hmong Americans who play raj learned it before they emmigrated to the U.S. The raj being primarily a tool for courtship, boys and girls tended to learn how to play as teenagers. Here's a brief firsthand account of Hmong coursthip practices in Laos during the 1960s from the female perspective:
The way young men came to see a girl, so that her parents wouldn't know, they just followed her. If she went to get some water, they talked to her by the stream. If she went to work in the rice field, they just came there and helped her do things. If I was working in the rice field, they would help me to work in the field all day! Sometimes they came and played music outside my house at night, playing softly on their flute. If they liked me enough, they sent me a flute they had bought. So I had a flute, and I learned how to play it, but I never played my flute back to any boy. I only played to myself. I didn't really like any of those boys.

From: Xiong, May and Nancy Donnelly. "My Life in Laos." In The Hmong World, edited by Brenda Johns and David Strecker. Yale Center for International & Area Studies: Council on Southeast Asia Studies (1986): 201-244

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