Various Artists

Ethnic Minority Music of North Vietnam

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Here is yet another collection of truly exotic and mysterious music from Laurent Jeanneau, the modern-day John Lomax, who roams to the remotest parts of the earth seeking to highlight and illuminate the all-but unknown. This time he travels to North Vietnam in and around Sapa, to capture the essence of indigenous music of the Giay, Lu, Red Zao, and Black Among peoples of the region. There are 15 untitled selections here, reflecting to varying degrees the different kinds of Baozoo singing practiced in different ways by the people of the region. The Red Zao people are featured most here. There are five selections of this style that reveal a lead singer, or "cantor," who has his or her words repeated after a timed delay by two or three other singers. The duration is chosen rather randomly but creates a beautiful rhythmic component and gives "call and response" singing an exciting new dimension for those of us in the West. Other titles in this volume showcase the various instruments among the peoples of the region including the haunting and beautiful reed instrument called the Piem Zat, a strange familial member of the oboe family. Usually these pieces are accompanied by Baozoo singing. There are various percussion instruments highlighted as well including bamboo sticks played with coins, the Jew's Harp, and the Kheng, a bamboo mouth organ. There are copious notes with comments by Jeanneau, and the entire package is handsome. The sound is nearly pristine, which is a remarkable fact considering the rather rigorous circumstances this music was recorded in. Highly recommended.

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