This is a compilation of various ethnic groups living in modern days LAOS, focusing on southern provinces of CHAMPASAK, ATTAPEU, SEKONG, SARAVAN.
Unlike the Khmer in Cambodia, the Thai in Thailand, The Kinh in Vietnam or the Han in China who are the overwhelmed majority in their country, the LAO are only half of the population of the 7 millions people living in Laos and they ve traditionally divided Laos in 3 populations categories :
1 The LAO LOUM (Lao in the plains, 68 %) where the LAO belong with other TAI-KADAI (LAO_TAI) populations (Track D1)
2 The LAO THEUNG (highlanders, 22%) or Austro-asiatic (MON-KHMER) who used to be called KHA (slaves) by the valleys kingdoms, the KHMU being the largest of those 31 ethnic groups. (Tracks A3, A4, B1, B4, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, D2, D3, D4, D5)
3 The LAO SUNG (new comers from China in the highlands, 9%) including the HMONG/MIEN and TIBETO-BURMESE like the AKHA. (Tracks A1, A2, A5, B2, B3)
This classification is supposed to no longer exist, but to me it illustrates the ZOMIAN s concept of altitude as a social marker, kingdoms in the valleys with wet rice cultivation, written culture linked to Buddhism and the control of the Mekong versus other populations of oral animist cultures with slash and burn agriculture outside of the plains and seen as inferiors…
Most recordings available in the western world focus on the dominant culture in Laos, as you might know, I focus on marginalized ethnic minorities, I was based from 2003 to 2006 in north-east Cambodia and worked with a Canadian “human geographer” Ian Baird in 2006 to document mostly the BRAO music in southern Laos, then from 2006 to 2013 was based in southern China and had access to the northern Laotian provinces. Between 2006 and 2013 I was traveling alone in northern provinces and was also helped by Lee Yunxia, Chinese anthropologist who introduced me to Hmong and Akha villages, by the owner of Manotham Guesthouse in Meuang Khoua who introduced me to Khmu culture, by Nathan Badenoch American linguist who introduced me to the Bit in northern Laos , by Emanuel Gschiel Austrian coffee dealer in Tadlo who introduced me to Ta oi, Katu and Pacoh villages, and by Yves Bernard Frenchman who introduced me to Champasak city Lao musicians.
Recorded by Laurent Jeanneau 2018
1 BRAO LAVE GONGS 5.09
played by men using a set of 3 different sized nippled gongs (GAWNG), 3 pairs of cymbals (CHAR), and one drum (hageur) in Touay/ Phaosamphan village, Pathoumphone district, CHAMPASAK. March 2006
The BRAO are 60 000 people spread in Ratanakiri, north-east Cambodia and Champasak & Attapeu in southern Laos. The term LAVE is a Laotian official designation. Like so many ethnic minority people, this village is a new village shared by different ethnic groups relocated by the side of the road, while the territory of their ancestors has been looted by Lao, Vietnamese or Chinese business.
2 TA OY COURTING SONG 4.46
ONG a 32 years old KATANG (highlander) man and KEO a 50 years old TA OY woman performing improvised responsive singing, the man alternates singing and using a Lao KHENE (a 16 bamboo tubes mouthorgan) in Tad Lo, SARAVAN province. November 2013.
Fueled with our favorite rice alcohol the performers are getting more daring in their jokes .
The TA OY number around 40 000 people spread on both sides of the boarder with Vietnam and Saravan province in Laos.
3 TRIANG PAO KABANG 1.12
5 bamboo tubes producing one note each played by 5 men, in LAMAM, SEKONG province. March 2006
I m not sure if they are related to the NYE / NKRIANG, they are definitely a very small ethnic group.
4 NYAHEUN “Jeu phawn peng gawng ploung ken” 2.57
played by 4 people using one small nippled gong (gawng) and one mouth organ (khen) made of 10 bamboo tubes, 2 men alternatively sing in Oupasa village, PAKSONG district, CHAMPASAK province February 2006. They live around the Boloven plateau, 5000 people in a 30 villages.
5 KATU song 4.21
about the hard life, living in the forest sung by NANG PIT 49 years old woman in Kokbountay village, SEKONG province December 2012
The KATU are an estimated population of 22 000 people, spread over the eastern part of Sekong and Saravan provinces of Laos and on the other side of the boarder in Vietnam. The center of their traditional territory is on the eastern side of the Sekong river : Kalum, an area that we could not access because the police did not allowed us to witness the massive deforestation going on ! Regardless, Katu people recorded here always refer to Kalum as their place of origin.
1 LAO LAM SARAVAN 6.12
performed by 3 old LAO men Bounthavy Namnakhon sings IN LAO, Tong Lo Khoun plays SAW a 2 stringed bowed instrument, Khamphan Kikounphan plays KHENE a 16 bamboo tubes mouthorgan in Champasak city, CHAMPASAK province November 2013
Molam or the art of singing is the epicentre of popular southern LAO culture, this culture goes beyond the southern LAO community in Laos and is widespread in an electric form among the Isan province of north east Thailand (where live 10 times more Laotian than in Laos).
2 OI duet 3.17
VILAIPHON 60 years old man plays DOUR ( mouth organ of 6 bamboo tubes inserted in a gurd) and KEYSON 52 years old woman singer in Lanyao tay village ATTAPEU province January 2013
The OI with an estimated 12 000 people live in Attapeu province, like the Katu and other ethnic minorities, the young people are rarely interested in maintaining their ancestral culture, laosization and thai tv are doing the rest , but here is real traditional OI music usually having 2 DOUR players, a small mouthorgan, , and a larger one, the latter missing on this recording cause it was broken and could not be repaired
3 ALAK GONGS 3.03
performed by 3 old men using 2 flat gongs (PANAW) of different size and a bamboo tube in Mo village, LAMAM, SEKONG province March 2006
The ALAK are 25 000 people living in Saravan and Sekong provinces
4 ALAK KHENE MOLAM 2.51
Improvised song about solidarity in the village, a 16 bamboo tubes mouthorgan player with a male singer in Oak Then village, LAMAM, SEKONG province March 2006
5 PACOH song 2.15
KON LIET 60 years old man, improvises on the theme of war, accompanied with a pair of cymbals, producing very high pitched sounds. The singer is assisted by a 12 tubes mouth organ player.
In Tango village, SARAVAN province, January 2013.
Under the name KINK GONG you find 2 activities, the 1st one is to record ethnic minority music mostly in south-east Asia,
the 2nd is to transform, collage, recompose the original recordings into experimental soundscapes.