The modern-day republic of Laos is comprised of a number of diverse ethnic groups. As a result, the country's cultural landscape is multifarious and includes a striking variety of traditions: spiritual, ritual, and musical. On this Nimbus release, 11 musical examples from Laos' southern region are presented. Though the regional scope of the CD may seem limited, the variety of music presented is extensive. Pneumatically expanding and contracting sounds from reedy khen mouth organs, scalding melodic runs on wooden ranat xylophones, sensitively plucked notes on the kachapi lute, and a bevy of timbres from a battery of percussion instruments all intermingle on the CD's tracks. Beginning with "Pheng Satniao," played by the khen duo Khamsy Khounsavath and Nouthong Phimvilayphone, feelings of love felt by young couples are expressed. Sounding similar to an orchestra of melodiously tuned and delicately sequenced car horns, this khen duo puts out so much sound that it leaves one wondering when the musicians had time to breathe. Contrasting with the breathy sound of this first cut is "Lam Saravane." An ornamented vocal line floats above sing finger cymbals, raspy notched sticks known as niap niep, and the flirtatious cooing of a kachapi. "Kao Nok," track five, is usually played by a piphat percussion orchestra. This particular rendition is a solo performance by Phimvilayphone on the 21-bar ranat. The musicians heard on this CD immigrated to France in 1976. Despite this fact, the liner notes state that they are "the best musicians in Laos." Whatever their ranking in the Laos' hall of fame, Music From Southern Laos is a dazzling CD that encapsulates a specific cross-section of this country's extensive diversity of sound.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by John Vallier